For my 100th post on this site, I figured I'd review a prestigious and memorable film. Unfortunately, I watched Blackhat and will be reviewing that instead.

After a hacker attacks a nuclear power plant in Hong Kong, shutting down the coolant system and causing an explosion, the FBI and Chinese government work together to try and figure out who caused the attack, why and where the next attack will be. Captain Dawai (Leehom Wang) and his computer-savvy sister, Chen Lien (Tang Wei) work in conjunction with FBI Agents Jessup (Holt McCallany) and Barrett (Viola Davis). Dawai realizes that the code used was co-written by former hacker turned prisoner Nicholas Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth).

Like most films that need a criminal, Hathaway is released into custody of the FBI in an attempt to thwart the hacker. After a second attack that causes soy futures to rise, Hathaway and Chen begin to have romantic feelings for one another, against the wishes of Dawai. Globe-trotting from the United States, to Hong Kong and Jakarta, the Chinese and Americans try to play catch-up and also figure out what is going on.

Director Michael Mann continues his post-2004 slump with a movie that will surely be forgotten by, well... it probably is already forgotten. Dating back to Miami Vice, the director has struggled to provide the audience with a film that is engaging and full of rich characters. With the exception of making Hong Kong an amazing place to look at, it feels that Michael Mann has lost his edge about making the type of film he used to be able to do in his sleep.

Chris Hemsworth is horribly miscast, using all the charisma that he puts into every role and discarding it in favor of being bland and boring. The relationship that (quickly) forms between Hathaway and Chen does not feel natural, and comes across as more of a reason to shoehorn and love story into what should have otherwise been a straight-forward thriller. Neither actor has any chemistry with one another and the romantic subplot drags down the film.

Not to say that the rest of the film is great by any means. Watching the characters stare at computer screens, along with the audience staring at computer screens, we are told what is going on instead of going along for the journey. Watching someone type away or looking at movie-version of computer code is not what I would call an entertaining time.

Even though Michael Mann still has a keep eye for shooting a city and continuing the look of neo-noir, his issues are now coming up with a good script to go along with his eyes. Blackhat is not a total failure, but it certainly isn't a return to form either.



RIP: James Horner

Academy Award-winning composer James Horner has died, according to multiple news outlets. James Horner was piloting his small plane when it was being reported as having crashed in California. Sad news for film today.

James Horner is probably best known to film audiences as the composer for the film Titanic; for which he won an Oscar. Along with composing the score, James Horner also wrote the song "My Heart Will Go On", which also won an Oscar for Best Song. Surprisingly, Titanic is the only film in James Horner's entire catalog of film scores and songs that ever won him an Oscar.

My personal favorite scores from James Horner, though were early in his career. I grew up watching the film Commando and love the instrumental score that James Horner brought to the film. It's unique and distinctive. Though sounding similar to Commando, the score for 48 Hrs. is another instrumental score that I really enjoy. The scores for these 2 films really invoke a character shot into what could have been just run-of-the-mill action films.

Though not even garnering an Oscar nomination, James Horner's work on the 1989 film Glory is a personal favorite of mine. The score uses some of James Horner's most familiar tropes, but comes together into a very classy score with some added bravura for good measure. Especially outstanding is the track "Charging Fort Wagner" wherein the heroes make their last charge. The track evokes so much all the emotion that has been building throughout the film and really provides the listener with something to remember the film by.

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't mention, what could possibly be, James Horner's most iconic work: Aliens. Composed with the urgency that James Cameron shot Aliens with, the score to Aliens is frantic, yet never really feels cluttered. James Horner was interviewed for Aliens about his score and he mentioned that he did not want to work with James Cameron again as he was put under extreme pressure to complete the score in a short period of time. James Horner may not have enjoyed the conditions to making the score of Aliens, but he delivered one of the most iconic film scores of all time; including the track "Bishop's Countdown" which is a staple for many film trailers.



RIP: Rick Ducommun

Before I came back to the blog on a semi-regular basis, I missed out on writing about some celebrities unfortunate passings including Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman. I also didn't write about Christopher Lee as I truly am not too familiar with Lee's work, though have researched him and his life and the guy was amazing. If you don't know anything about Christopher Lee, go and read up on him.

The name Rick Ducommun may not ring a bell to some folks, but to me he will always be remembered as Art Weingartner from Joe Dante's The 'Burbs. Rick's performance as the overweight, bumbling neighbor who persuades Tom Hanks' character Ray Petersen into believing that his neighbors might be murderers. His role, mainly as the pratfall sidekick to Tom Hanks' straight man worked well and Rick seemed to have great chemistry with all the cast members of The 'Burbs.

Rick Ducommun made his career out of being a character actor. From brief scenes in Joe Dante's Gremlins 2: The New Batch and John McTiernan's The Hunt for Red October and Last Action Hero, to having substantial parts in other films like Harold Ramis' Groundhog Day and Rupert Wainwright's Blank Check, Rick always brought high energy to his performance, no matter the size of the role.

One last thing, when I was a kid, I loved the film Little Monsters. It took me well into adulthood to realize that Rick Ducommun played the villainous sidekick role of Snik. Under many layers of makeup, it was hard to know who played the role initially, but was a welcome surprise when I realized that Rick Ducommun was responsible for Snik.

Rick Ducommun: 1956-2015


Project Almanac

On the weekend with one of the biggest openings of all time, it would make sense to review the film everyone is talking about: Jurassic World. Project Almanac.

Michael Bay and is trash factory of a production company, Platinum Dunes bring us a found footage (for some reason) time travel thriller about teens who create a time travel device. Sitting on the shelf for about a year, and knowing the "talent" behind the film, one begins to wonder if this film is as terrible as the signs point to, or could this be a diamond in the rough. The answer: neither.

                                               It's no DeLorean, that's for sure.

In 2014, David Raskin (Jonny Weston) has just been accepted to MIT with only a partial scholarship. Not able to afford to the remaining balance for tuition, David resorts to trying to get a scholarship by providing an invention. While rummaging through his dead father's science experiments, (naturally) David and his sister, Chris (Virginia Gardner) and their 2 friends: Quinn (Sam Lerner) and Adam (Allen Evangelista) stumble across plans for a time travel device.

With Chris recording everything (because, why not?) David and his friends take the plans and find a way to make the machine work. Aided by Jessie, (Sofia Black D'Ella) another student and a girl that catches David's eye, the friends are able to travel back in time. Initially making a pact to only travel back in time together, David does not heed the warnings and begins to mess with the time travel device.

                                          "This isn't like 'Back to the Future'. Hell, it's not even like 'The Butterfly Effect'.

Following the usual tropes of time travel films, the idea of holding the power of time travel in your hands is too great to bear. The characters in the film use the machine to travel back in time to win the lottery, go to concerts and make certain decisions right. Though, by changing the past, consequences of what they have changed affect what goes on back in the present time. Upon returning to the present, the friends discover that their changes have negatively impacted their present time and must find a way to right their wrongs.

As is typical with most time travel movies, the film cannot bear the weight of the paradoxes that the script puts the characters into. Taking a much longer time than usual for setting up the film, the first half is not awful in watching the, mostly likable, characters come together and build the time machine together. Once the time travel begins, though, the film slogs through endless sequences of David and company changing their lives in various ways.

                                            The cast realizing their paychecks come from Michael Bay.

The changing of the lives comes off as boring and overly long, before we finally reach them realizing that they have changed their present-day lives. Their actions and the negative consequences, though, never really feel threatening to the story; especially when the characters know how to fix their mistakes and follow through with the plan. Project Almanac plays it way too safe and that hurts a film that wants to be a different type of time travel film.

I'm a sucker for time travel films, yet Project Almanac fails overall in the story it tries to tell. Stick with 'Primer', instead.

                                            A PG-13 version of 'There's Something About Mary'.



From The Vault: JFK

Let's take a ride into the wacky world of Oliver Stone!

Back in 1991, Oliver Stone's truth about the assassination of John F. Kennedy was released to the public. On November 22, 1963 John F. Kennedy was killed in Dallas, Texas and depending on who you ask; one person or many people in a perfectly-coordinated coup de tat were involved in the assassination. I'll let you decide which one Oliver Stone believes in.

                                                "The glasses! They do nothing!"

New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) believes strongly in the beliefs of John Kennedy and, upon hearing of the assassination, believes that a conspiracy to kill John Kennedy has been put in place. Jim rounds up men in his office in an attempt to prove a conspiracy to kill the president of the United States.

Now, going over the happenings of the movie is a waste of time. Those looking for a history lesson should probably turn away now because if you want the truth, look elsewhere. You don't get the truth. You do get, THE TRUTH! Oliver Stone takes some facets of truth here and there and sprinkles them into a film that builds a strong case for one of the most entertaining FICTION films of all time. Not basing the film on all facts is what actually makes the movie such a blast to watch.

                                                  Behind the scenes still of Oliver Stone disagreeing with a reporter
                                                                  over the factual accuracy of JFK.

What Oliver Stoner and co-writer Zachary Sklar do is provide multiple characters that provide Jim Garrison with just enough information to make this conspiracy theory pop. The film, running at over three hours, never really drags for a second. The film does not fly by either. What Oliver Stone is able to do with JFK is encapsulate the audience in what he perceives as the truth and gets the viewer involved in an interesting conspiracy theory film.

Having a group of A-List actors to support the film and make the dialogue and situations believable is one of the film's biggest strengths. Joe Pesci is wildy miscast as the paranoid David Ferrie and Kevin Bacon's flattop and accent are laughable, but both actors believe in the material and make the film much easier to take. Tommy Lee Jones is on hand (in an Oscar nominated performance) as the antagonistic, yet possibly innocent Clay Bertrand. Stealing the movie, though, is Donald Sutherland's X, who only has one sequence in the film, but it is a show stopper. How Donald Sutherland rattles off all the information in his sequence and doesn't make the audience fall asleep I will never know. Certainly a missed opportunity for an Oscar nomination there.

                                          Uh...this film is still about the Kennedy assassination, right?

Again, the film is nowhere near the truth. As a highly-stylized, fictional story about a conspiracy to assassinate the president, though, JFK is an amazing film and must be seen. One of my favorite films of all time.



Into The Woods

Talent is cobbled together to create a giant mess!

Meryl Streep plays a Witch who has placed a curse upon the family of a Baker (James Corden) and his Wife (Emily Blunt) wherein the Baker and Wife cannot have children. The Witch is willing to remove the curse if the Baker and his Wife are able to obtain four objects: a red cape, a white cow, yellow hair and a gold slipper.

                                               "Hopefully there are no half man/half wolf pedophile Johnny Depp
                                                               lookalikes with a penchant for underage girls with picnic baskets
                                                               lurking in these woods."

During this time, the owners of the other objects begin to live out the fairy tales that you have read in books. Little Red Riding Hood (Lilla Crawford) and her cape are on their way to grandmother's house with a basket full of goodies only to be interrupted by The Big Bad Wolf (Johnny Depp). Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy) spends her days locked in a tower while being secretly visited by a Prince (Billy Magnussen). Jack (Daniel Huttlestone) is on his way to town to sell his beloved cow while Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) struggles continues to lead on her Prince (Chris Pine) and leaving him with a serious case of blue balls.

All these characters meet and intersect "into the woods" as they each have their reasons for crossing through the title. Eventually, in what would seem like the film beginning to wind down, The Baker and his Wife gather the objects desired by the Witch to have the curse removed. Surprisingly, the film continues onward for a long portion of time and leads past all of the characters living out their "happy endings".

                                            "Sup, sexy?"
                                                           "Sup, beefcake."

Watching the characters go through their happy endings and finding out that everything does not end well could be an interesting idea. Unfortunately, the film doesn't really follow through with following the characters beyond where the fairy tale ends. What we get instead is a race against time with the characters teaming up to stop a threat coming down to the woods. Any hope that might have survived for something interesting quickly fades and we are reduced to a bland and boring second half of the film.

Not to say the first half of the film was something to write home about. Into the Woods has a star-studded cast, yet no one seems to hit the notes the characters need for this type of film. Meryl Streep is having a lot of fun, but her Witch is never menacing. Johnny Depp's brief appearance as The Wolf is highly disappointing as The Wolf comes off as just a pedophile version of Johnny Depp with painted on whiskers. James Corden tries to step up and hold the film as the Baker, but Rob Marshall's bland directing and surprisingly ugly set design keep the film bogged down; never allowing Into the Woods to get any momentum going.

                                          Johnny Depp molesting this tree is still more watchable than 'Mortdecai'.

It's a shame, as there is a good idea to be had with Into the Woods. Unfortunately, that idea lays dormant and we are instead treated to an uninspired film that wastes a perfectly good cast.


Black Sea

Robinson (Jude Law) has spent his life, costing him his wife and son, working in and amongst submarines. After being terminated from his job as a captain for under sea salvage, Robinson hears from some friends about a surefire way to make money: During World War II, a German U-boat sank off the coast of Georgia that was loaded with gold.

After meeting with a rich backer who is curious about the plan, Robinson is assigned a rugged submarine and a ragtag mix of British and Russian sailors to pilot the submarine. Amongst the group are the rich backer's assistant, Daniels (Scoot McNairy) who is being forced onto the submarien unwittingly and the unstable Fraser (Ben Mendelsohn) who is distrustful of the Russians on board the submarine.

                                                                 It's like City Slickers II, just on a submarine!

What follows is a low-rent 'Treasure of the Sierra Madre' as this blue-collar group of sailors plots what to do if and when they find the gold. Some of the sailors then begin planning to take larger portions of the share of gold by killing others on board the submarine. Even before there is a chance for the sailors to get their hands on the gold, plans are already being put into motion about wiping out other people. You know, as soon as gold is mentioned you start plotting murder.

What should have been a solid thriller about characters in a tight situation beginning to crack under pressure and encapsulated by gold fever never fully realizes the potential. There are only two basic characters in the film: those that want to complete the mission honorably and those that are savage murderers just because.

                                            "Just find me the shittiest looking sub in the world!"

As soon as the submarine hits the water, characters have already begun talking about how their slice of the gold could be higher if the offed one or two people. This ruins any tension of watching someone slowly crack. Black Sea takes what could have been a good idea and just sinks it (haha, I know. Me so funny.)

There was a good idea to be had, here, but the script to Black Sea does the actors and audience no favors by going too over the top when a nice helping of subtlety would have been what the film needed.

                                               "If I stare out this window long enough, I'm bound to get an Oscar
                                                               nomination, right?"



The Prince

Bruce Willis and John Cusack in a straight to video thriller? Yes, please.

When Paul's (Jason Patric) daughter, Beth, disappears from her college life, Paul begins an independent investigation. While searching for Beth, Paul meets Angela who knows just enough information to become Paul's sidekick while continuing his search. Partnering up, Paul and Angela make their way to New Orleans where it appears that Beth has fallen under the wing of various drug dealers.

                                               "I'm just your average blue-collar, hard-working, lovable dad who has
                                                               a cache full of weapons, marksman-like aim and tactical gear that will
                                                               make the ATF take notice."

Paul knows being in New Orleans is dangerous as a man from his past, Omar, awaits Paul's return to avenge a tragedy in Omar's life. Not to be deterred, Paul teams up with Sam, (John Cusack) a contact from his past to help protect Angela, but to also assist in helping locate Beth. All these cliched plot points eventually meet up and become one predictable cliche-filled movie.

Also, 50 Cent shows up playing a character named: The Pharmacy.

                                          50 Cent after reading the script for 'The Prince'.

Opening with a redundant and unnecessary flashback, the film never improves. Jason Patric's Paul starts out as a blue-collar mechanic, but is more than he appears. The script by Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore never makes an attempt to elevate this standard crime film above mediocre. The Prince is filled with mediocre as the writers, director and actors seem uninterested and looking forward to cashing their paychecks.

Jason Patric stars and has the burden of having to carry the whole film on his shoulders. The weight crumbles under his attempt to pull the film through. Never showing much interest or threatening menace, Paul comes off more as just a grunting, angry father who just so happens to fire guns and is lucky to be missed by every bad guy and henchman trying to kill him.

                                          A behind the scenes shot of John Cusack being informed that unlimited whisky
                                                        was not in his movie contract.

Coming off even worse is John Cusack as Sam. Looking like the crew just woke John Cusack up, all of Sam's brief screen time takes place at the same hotel with Sam either holding booze or a cigar in hand. Which I guess explains why John Cusack took the role. Free suite at a hotel with unlimited booze and cigars and I don't even have to try? Sign me up! - John Cusack.

The Prince is not the worst film ever made, but is so forgettable and offers the viewer nothing new. So, why bother watching when no one involved in the film bothered to try.

                                          "Straight-to-video or not, my fee is still a million dollars a day. $1.5 million
                                                        with the goatee." - Bruce Willis



Inherent Vice

So....where to begin with this one.

Dope head, Larry "Doc" Sportello is visited by his ex-girlfriend, Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston) regarding Mickey Wolfmann, (Eric Roberts) Shasta's current lover. Shasta claims that a plot is being put into motion to have Mickey placed into an insane asylum by Mickey's wife. While looking into the query, Doc accidentally becomes the prime suspect in a murder.

After being questioned by Detective Christian "Bigfoot" Bjornsen (Josh Brolin) about the murder. Doc gets turned on to a case about a missing musician: Coy Harlingen (Owen Wilson). Once finding Coy alive and well, Doc realizes that he is spiraling down further into a case about the mysterious: "Golden Fang". With drugs and killer hair, Doc continues to march on in an attempt to solve the cases.

Honestly, those paragraphs barely scratch the surface of what is a truly meandering, yet highly-enjoyable film from Paul Thomas Anderson. The film seems to feel within the wheelhouse, though, of PT Anderson with multiple characters jockeying for screen time amongst a convoluted and dense plot. Joaquin Phoenix does a solid job as the drug-hazed Doc who really does not understand the plot, along with the audience, as he stumbles from one clue to the other. Josh Brolin, though, stands out as the tough-as-nails, yet vulnerable Bigfoot. His gruff persona acts as a stark contrast to the others in the film. And you'll never have more fun watching someone eat a frozen banana.

Not having read the book by Thomas Pynchon that the film is based off, Inherent Vice the film is more about the characters and setting. Throwing out what seems to be a plot that's more confusing than the film deserves, I gave up trying to follow what was going on and just enjoyed the ride. And if you can get over not really caring about where the story is leading (if it's leading anywhere) then there is enough enjoyment within the stable of actors that PT Anderson has corralled.

My main issue doesn't actually come regarding the film; but moreso with PT Anderson himself. I am still a huge fan, yet am growing worried with his film as of late that seem to disregard plot and focus more on just acting. I have enjoyed The Master and Inherent Vice, but wish that a more substantial (or in Inherent Vice's case) reduced plot to make a more entertaining movie-going experience. Both, this film and The Master have been enjoyable, I just wish there was a little less meandering and more focus on a streamlined plot.

As is, Inherent Vice will be a film that divides people, but I came away with a film that I enjoyed throughout and am glad I experienced it.



An alien race known as The Boov invade Earth and relocate all humans to other parts of Earth while the Boov settle in where humans inhabited. An outcast Boov known as Oh (Jim Parsons) stumbles across Tip, (Rihanna) a child who was left behind while her mother, Lucy, (Jennifer Lopez) was relocated. The two begin a friendship with Oh trying to help Tip (not the rapper) reunite with her mother.

As simple as the plot sounds, it--well actually it is that simple. The Boov ruler, Captain Smek, (Steve Martin) leads all Boov while trying to hide on Earth from their enemy, the Gorg. Known best for running away, Captain Smek tries to keep his cowardice hidden while blaming others for failed plans and taking credit for plans to help the Boov survive the Gorg.

Home is a surprisingly embarrassing family film. With Rihanna and Jennifer Lopez starring in the film, a lot of time is spent ensuring the filmmakers letting the audience know who will be on the "Home" soundtrack. When not bumping the latest "Ri-Ri" of "J.Lo" the film spends so much time trying to showcase the cuteness of the Boov in an effort to have parents buy their children the latest Boov toy. The Boov are not Minions, no matter how hard the film wants you to think they are.

Aside from what sells on this movie, the actual story line is a shade below pedestrian. After a brief set-up of the Boov taking over Earth, we really don't get much more in depth regarding the Boov lifestyle. Yes, they are Minion-like, but so what? There is a plot, I guess, about racing against time to hid themselves from the Gorg. Yet, the Gorg are hardly given any screen time in the film and no attempt is really made at all about who the Gorg are and why they are so feared. Yes, the end does explain their motivation, but not for one second does it feel like the Gorg were really intertwined into the plot. The Gorg felt like an afterthought where the screenwriters got together and felt that there was no threat in the film so they scribbled down the Gorg and their brief motivation on a napkin.

Obviously, I am not a fan of Home. Maybe I'm not the audience the film is trying to serve, but I find many animated films enjoyable. An uber-simple story with a lack of visuals meshed with many marketing ideas equals a surprisingly bad film, but a hell of a nice toy/soundtrack commercial. So, I guess there's that...