Friday, August 31, 2012

"Haywire" (2011)

Starring Gina Carano, Ewan MacGregor, and Channing Tatum
Written by Lem Dobbs
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Rated R - Violence, language
Running Time: 93 Minutes

Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) is an operative for a private firm of ambiguous origin.  Her boss and former boyfriend Kenneth (Ewan MacGregor) hires her for an assignment in Barcelona.  There, she's tasked with rescuing a dissident Chinese journalist named Jiang, and partnered with a man named Aaron (Channing Tatum).

After she returns, she's sent out quickly on another assignment in Dublin where she must play the "eye candy" with a British Intelligence agent named Paul (Michael Fassbender).  But she discovers that Paul has killed Jiang, and that she is now a target.  Mallory is now on the run, with Kenneth sending his best assassins and local law enforcement after her.

Not knowing why she's being targeted or who she can trust, Mallory reluctantly forms a partnership with a young man she's forced to kidnap (Michael Angarano) and a mysterious government agent named Coblenz (Michael Douglas) in order to find the truth.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"Battleship" (2012)

Starring Taylor Kitsch, Rihanna and Liam Neeson
Written by Jon Hoeber and Erich Hoeber
Directed by Peter Berg
Rated PG-13 - Violence, language
Running Time: 131 Minutes

Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) is a loser.  He has no job, no money, and no direction.  One night, while trying to impress a girl at a bar, he's arrested breaking into a convenience store.  Afterward, his brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgard), sick of Alex's crap, forces him to join the United States Navy, hoping it will give him some discipline and direction.

Six years later, Hopper is a lieutenant aboard the USS John Paul Jones.  He's dating that young woman, Samantha Shane (Brooklyn Decker) who just happens to be the daughter of Admiral Terrence Shane (Liam Neeson) who commands the Navy's Pacific fleet.  He wants to marry her, but he's afraid of the admiral.  And despite becoming a lieutenant in the Navy, he hasn't managed to curb his poor character problems.  He's stubborn and quick to anger.

While out on maneuvers during some international naval exercises, alien spacecraft crash down in the middle of the Pacific near Hawaii.  A massive forcefield is erected, cutting off the Hawaiian islands and Hopper's ship from the rest of the world.  Trapped alone, with the captain and executive officer killed, Hopper must take command of the John Paul Jones and wage a dangerous battle against the superior alien forces before they can signal their home planet for reinforcements and rain destruction down on mankind.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

"Seeking Justice" (2011)

Starring Nicolas Cage, January Jones and Guy Pearce
Written by Robert Tannen
Directed by Roger Donaldson
Rated R - Violence, language
Running Time: 105 Minutes

Will Gerard (Nicolas Cage) is a mild-mannered literature teacher at a high school in New Orleans.  One night, his wife Laura (January Jones) is brutally beaten and raped.  While visiting her in the hospital, Will is approached by a man who calls himself Simon (Guy Pearce) who offers to "take care" of the individual responsible.  Will, in a moment of weakness, agrees in return for a favor to be named in the future.

Six months later, Simon reappears in Will's life, tasking him with following a young woman and two children at the zoo.  Unbeknownst to Will, he's being followed himself.  Simon continues to ask Will for more favors, finally telling him to murder a man Simon says is a child pornographer.  When Will refuses, Simon begins to intrude into his life, and even threatens Laura, until Will agrees to do as he's told.

But Will discovers that the man he was supposed to murder was in fact a journalist working to expose Simon's organization.  Wanted for murder, Will doesn't know who to trust in the police department or his own personal life.  He's on the run, trying to expose Simon and his organization for what they are: cold-blooded murderers.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

"The Expendables 2" (2012)

Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham and Jean-Claude Van Damme
Written by Richard Wenk and Sylvester Stallone
Directed by Simon West
Rated R - Strong bloody violence throughout and language
Running Time: 103 Minutes

They're all back.

The Expendables, Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Yin Yang (Jet Li),  Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), Toll Road (Randy Couture) and newcomer Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth) are hired to save a a Chinese billionaire from kidnappers in Nepal.  When they bust into the compound, they make a surprising discovery: Barney's rival, Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who was captured while also trying a rescue attempt.

Soon enough, Barney and the others make their bloody, extravagant escape and head home.  Barney is then approached by Church (Bruce Willis) with a mission, to make up for the millions Barney cost him in the first film.  Barney and his team are paired with Maggie (Yu Nan) and tasked with retrieving computer data from a downed plane in the mountains of Albania.  But the team runs afoul of Jean Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) a terrorist who uses the information to locate buried weapons-grade plutonium in a nearby mine that he plans to sell.

One murdered teammate later, and Barney and the rest of the Expendables are out for vengeance.  Cue more gunfire and cheesy banter than you know what to do with.

Friday, August 10, 2012

"Edge of Darkness" (2010)

Starring Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone and Danny Huston
Written by William Monahan and Andrew Bovell
Directed by Martin Campbell
Rated R - Violence, language
Running Time: 117 Minutes

Boston Homicide Detective Thomas Craven (Mel Gibson) is excited to have his daughter Emma (Bojana Novakovic) home to visit.  But he suspects that something is bothering her, and when she begins to fall ill, he decides to take her to the doctor.  On their way out the door, a man with a shotgun blows Emma away, but leaves Craven uninjured.

Initially, Craven and his colleagues at the Boston PD believe that Craven was the intended target, but when he discovers an illegal, loaded pistol in her belongings, he begins to wonder if she was in some kind of trouble.  Soon enough, as he begins to dig into her life, he discovers that she may have crossed some very powerful people at a secret nuclear research facility in western Massachusetts.

Craven is paid a visit by the mysterious Mr. Jedburgh (Ray Winstone) who points Craven toward Emma's employers.  But Craven isn't sure Jedburgh is on his side, or can be trusted.  As the bodies begin to pile up, Craven himself is now a target, and powerful forces will stop at nothing to keep him silent.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

'Star Trek: The Next Generation' Season One - 1987 [Blu-Ray]

Starring Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes and Brent Spiner
Created by Gene Roddenberry

I previously reviewed the first season of Gene Roddenberry's much-beloved "Star Trek: The Next Generation," so I won't repeat those comments here regarding the quality of the episodes.  This review will focus purely on the remastering efforts of this new Blu-Ray edition of the show.

First, a bit of background to explain what is happening with this show.  Way back in 1987, the show was shot on 35mm film, including many of the show's myriad special effects sequences.  But as a time and cost-saving measure, post-production was done on videotape.  This was common with many shows in the 80s and through much of the 1990s.  What this means, however, is that the final version of every episode only exists in a standard-definition video tape.  This is impossible to present in high definition, since the image resolution simply isn't there.

Now, however, in order to present the show in hi-def for blu-ray, CBS has gone back to the original film elements of every episode and is essentially putting the show through post-production once again.  Every episode is being edited together again from scratch, all the special effects scanned and composited digitally.

The result is, in a word, astonishing.  In standard definition, the show seems drained of life.  The image is fuzzy, at best, and its colors muted.  The special effects always looked, well, like TV-level special effects.  The Enterprise was a big, gray object moving through space that looked like just a deeper gray.    The ship lacked contrast as the compositing techniques of the time and the videotape mastering simply couldn't get that original photography to look as good as it should.

Now, however, the difference is like night and day.  The Enterprise is highly detailed, and now has proper contrast and coloring.  It looks far more dynamic and visually appealing as it moves through space that is now a deep, deep black (and even occasionally broken up by gorgeous blue and purple clouds).  The show's opening credits are simply gorgeous; you can now see that there are actually animated people moving in the windows of the ship as it passes!  It was a detail that was never visible in the standard-definition versions of the show, and just speaks as to how this release is finally, finally doing justice to how this show was originally made.

"Get the Gringo" (2012)

Starring Mel Gibson, Kevin Hernandez and Daniel Giminez Cacho
Written by Mel Gibson
Directed by Adrian Grunberg
Rated R - Violence, nudity, language
Running Time: 96 Minutes

'Driver' (Mel Gibson) has made off with $2 million worth of a drug lord's money.  Unfortunately, he manages to crash his car and get himself arrested by Mexican authorities.  The cops who bust him take his money and dump him in a massive prison that seems more like its own small town.  Unsure of how things work, Driver begins to get the lay of the land.  Having spent time in prisons before, he knows exactly what he needs to do: learn the social structures, figure out who's on top, and then ingratiate himself.

But this provers harder than Driver initially suspects.  To help, he partners up with young Kid (Kevin Hernandez), who he learns is very important to the prison's top dog, Javi (Daniel Giminez Cacho).  It seems that Javi has a bad liver and a very rare blood type... and Kid is a perfect match.  Javi's men protect kid at all costs, but only so that he can incubate a nice, new healthy liver for when Javi finally needs it.

On the outside, hitmen for the mob trying to track down the stolen money begin to follow a trail that will eventually lead back to Driver.  Driver knows he needs to get out of town as soon as he can, but his conscience is telling him he can't just ditch Kid and his mother (Dolores Heredia).  He'll have to use all his skills as a thief and a conman to pull off this job from the inside and get them all out free and clear.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

"Total Recall" (2012)

Starring Colin Farrell, Jessica Biel and Kate Beckinsale
Written by Mark Bomback, James Venderbilt and Kurt Wimmer
Directed by Len Wiseman
Rated PG-13: Language, violence, brief nudity
Running Time: 121 Minutes

In the future, chemical warfare has left much of the planet uninhabitable.  The only remaining places of human society are the United Federation of Britain, and "the Colony," formerly known as Australia.  The Colony, despite existing on the opposite end of the Earth, is financially dependent on Britain.  British Federal Police patrol its streets, and its citizens are exploited as migrant workers.

Douglas Quaid (Colin Farrell) works a monotonous job at a factory in Britain.  Every day, he boards a gravity elevator called the Fall with his friend Harry (Bokeem Woodbine), and travels to the factory where he works on the assembly line constructing sophisticated new robotic police soldiers.  Lately, Quaid has been suffering from strange nightmares where he's trying to escape some kind of facility with a beautiful woman he doesn't know the name of.  His wife, Lori (Kate Beckinsale) worries that Quaid isn't happy with their marriage.

One day after work, Quaid decides to visit Rekall - a company that advertises the promise of realistic memories, far cheaper and safer than going on any real vacation or adventure.  Quaid decides he'd like to be a secret agent for a while, but before the new memories can be implanted, the Rekall employees discover that Quaid really is a secret agent!  Soon enough, the Federal Police raid Rekall, and Quaid manages to kill them all singlehandedly.  When he goes home, he confesses to Lori, and she promptly attempts to kill him.  She explains that he is not, in fact, Douglas Quaid, and that she is not, in fact, his wife.  The entire life he knows are implanted memories.

Now, Quaid is on the run.  Traveling to Britain, he meets up with a resistance fighter named Melina (Jessica Biel) who works for a man named Mathias (Bill Nighy).  Melina and Mathias believe that buried deep within Quaid's mind is the information necessary to bring down the corrupt government run by Chancellor Vihos Cohaagen (Bryan Cranston) and stop a military invasion of the Colony that would cost millions of innocent lives.