Author: Derrick

The Expendables 3

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Directed by Patrick Hughes

Produced by Avi Lerner, Kevin King-Templeton, Danny Lerner, Les Weldon and John Thompson

Screenplay by Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt and Sylvester Stallone

Based on a story by Sylvester Stallone

Based on characters by David Callaham

It seems like a small and petty thing, I know. But every time I watch an Expendables movie I always wish I had thought to name one of my characters Hale Caesar before these series of movies started. What does that have to do with my review of THE EXPENDABLES 3? Absolutely nothing. It was just a random thought that occurred to me when Terry Crews showed up on the screen I thought I’d share. The time it took for me to relate that thought is also about the same amount of screen time that Terry Crews/Hale Caesar has before he’s shot by Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson) the man who co-founded The Expendables along with Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) Stonebanks turned on his own team to become an illegal international weapons dealer, forcing Barney to come after him. Barney thought he had killed Stonebanks. He thought wrong.

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Barney’s CIA contact Max Drummer (Harrison Ford) tells Barney he’s got one more shot at Stonebanks as he’s wanted by The Hague to stand trial as a war criminal. For reasons that are never really made clear, Barney fires his current team: His second-in-command and knife expert Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) Sniper Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundren) Demolitions expert Toll Road (Randy Couture) and Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes) one of the original Expendables who just might be as good if not better with knives as Lee Christmas and also acts as team medic.

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With the help of “talent scout” Bonaparte (Kelsey Grammer) Barney recruits a younger, hipper squad of Expendables: ex-Navy Seal John Smilee (Kellan Lutz) Hand-to-hand combat specialist and professional bouncer Luna (Ronda Rousy) hacker Thorn (Glenn Powell) and sharpshooter Mars (Victor Ortiz) The one more shot at Stonebanks goes fubar and Barney has to swallow his pride to get his old team back to help him rescue the kids, assisted by Barney’s best frenemy Trench Mauser (Arnold Schwarzenegger) martial artist Yin Yang (Jet Li) and Galgo (Antonio Banderas) expert sharpshooter and professional madman.

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Whew. Sounds like a lot to keep track of, doesn’t it? Well, there are a whole lot of characters and because we’ve got so many characters, the plot seems a lot more complicated than it actually is. While I enjoyed THE EXPENDABLES 3 a lot I can’t help but think that this one should have focused totally on the Stonebanks plot and saved recruiting a new team of younger Expendables for the fourth movie. Because the biggest WTH in the movie is Barney firing the old guys who most certainly have more of a reason for taking Stonebanks down since it’s their teammate he put in the hospital and both Barney and Doctor Death were on the original team betrayed by Stonebanks.

It also sticks out like the moles on Morgan Freeman’s face that the movie adheres to the rule that there can only be one black guy on a team at a time. Me, I’d have had Gunner get shot and near death for most of the movie’s running time. Nothing against Dolph Lundgren, understand. I just like Terry Crews/Hale Caesar more and would have enjoyed seeing him get more screen time and usually it’s him and Randy Couture who get shorted in the two sequels we’ve had.

The acting honors in this one goes to Mel Gibson who played a bad guy in “Machete Kills” and stole that movie like he steals this one. Stonebanks really doesn’t have much characterization or motivation for what he does but he’s a bad guy who so obviously enjoys being a bad guy I ended up liking him a lot. And Antonio Banderas is practically a live action cartoon as a mercenary desperate to join The Expendables who simply cannot stop talking. Banderas acts totally off the wall and is obviously having a lot of fun. Out of all the new Expendables introduced I’d most like to see him and Ronda Rousey return. A female MMA who is ranked at being #1 in the world in her class, she gets some really terrific fight scenes in the climactic battle between The Expendables, old team and new versus the onslaught of Stonebanks’ private army. I really enjoyed the chemistry she has with Banderas and hope they exploit it in the next movie (what, you really think that there isn’t going to be an “Expendables 4?’)

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I’ve heard and read some less than favorable reviews of THE EXPENDABLES 3 and I’m not going to say that they’re not valid. But for me, I went into the movie expecting nothing more an an action movie version of “The Avengers” and that’s what I got. For me it’s just a lot of fun seeing all these actors together on the same screen blowing shit up and shooting everything in sight. I’ve heard some complaints that there’s really no reason for people like Harrison Ford and Kelsey Grammer to be in the movie and that Jet Li should have had more to do. I was perfectly happy with Kelsey Grammer coming in, doing what he’s supposed to be doing and then he’s gone. Jet Li has already been established as a team member so having him show up for the final fight to back up his friends is okay by me.

So should you see THE EXPENDABLES 3? If you saw and enjoyed the first two, then Yes. The action sequences will definitely get your adrenaline pumping and I for one appreciated the effort on the part of the screenwriters to give us a story totally different from from the first two “Expendables” and at least make an effort to take the franchise in a new direction. Now the real test is going to come in “The Expendables 4” Are the new kids going to stick around and we’ll see Barney work at integrating the old-timers with the new kids and teaching them how to work as one unit? I hope so. We’ll see. In the meantime, go see THE EXPENDABLES 3 and have a good time.

126 minutes

Rated PG-13

 

The Baby

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1973

Quintet Productions

Directed by Ted Post

Produced by Abe Polsky, Milton Polsky and Elliott Feinman

Written by Abe Polsky

I am so thankful and grateful that I live in a world where movies like THE BABY were once made. There is absolutely no way on God’s green Earth that THE BABY could have been made today. It’s a movie that is so totally and absolutely batshit insane that even while you’re watching it you honestly can’t believe what you’re watching. And I do not exaggerate, trust me. Just when you think THE BABY can’t get any crazier it ups the ante and gets crazier. And the last fifteen minutes of the movie finishes up the job of blowing what few fuses are left intact in your brain.

Ann Gentry (Anjanette Comer) is an earnest, well-meaning social worker who is assigned a new case involving the Wadsworth family. There’s Mrs. Wadsworth (Ruth Roman) and her two daughters: Germaine (Mariana Hill) and Alba (Suzanne Zenor). And then there’s the youngest and strangest member of the Wadsworth family. Baby (David Manzy) is a mentally impaired man in his early twenties who mind is still that of an infant and so he acts as such. The behavior is strongly reinforced by his mother and sisters who treat him as such. His mother never even bothered giving him a proper name and so everybody calls him “Baby.” He sleeps in an oversized crib and crawls around on hands and knees just like….well, just like a baby. And yeah, I know what you’re thinking: that doesn’t seem very creepy or horrific. You just go ahead and watch the movie and then try and tell me that, cousin. David Manzy is a guy who throws himself into his role so well you may end up like me, wondering exactly what he did to prepare for the role.

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Ann takes a special interest in the case, thinking that if Baby has proper training and treatment in the proper facility he can start acting older and more appropriate for his age. No, he’ll never be a “Jeopardy” contestant but at least he won’t be wearing a diaper. Seeing as how she and her daughters are getting a nice chunk of change from the state for Baby’s welfare, Mrs. Wadsworth has a solid reason for keeping Baby exactly the way he is. In addition, Alba gets her kicks from torturing her little brother with a cattle prod while Germaine likes to sneak into Baby’s giant sized crib at night to play Doctor.

But Ann is determined to get Baby the help he needs and gradually it dawns on us that Ann is just a little too determined. It doesn’t take Mrs. Wadsworth long to pick up on the fact that Ann has her own agenda for Baby. One that doesn’t include the Wadsworths.

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In a very weird ass way, THE BABY is a woman’s picture. A cracked woman’s picture, I grant you. Compared to the chicks in this movie, Joan Crawford and Betty Davis in “Whatever Happened To Baby Jane” come off as being almost downright reasonable in their behavior. The few men in this movie are totally ineffectual and useless. I’m sure those of you with a psychological bent could make something out of the fact that the movie comes down to a bunch of women fighting for control of a man who is an infant and can’t take care of himself. Me, I take it as a superior psychological thriller with some surprisingly good performances.

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The production values are also better than you would expect from a movie of such sleaze and exploitation but that’s part of the reason why I love THE BABY so much. It looks much better than it had to and the actors treat the material with a respect and seriousness I didn’t expect. They’re committed to the story, no matter how WTF it is and it shows and that gives the truly surprising conclusion an added wallop to the gut.

So should you see THE BABY? Without a doubt. This is definitely one of those movies that goes on the You Have To See It To Believe It list. It would make an excellent Saturday night double feature with that king of WTF movies; “The Apple.” Enjoy.

PG

84 minutes

Guardians of The Galaxy

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2014

Marvel Studios

Directed by James Gunn

Produced by Kevin Feige

Screenplay by James Gunn and Nicole Perlman

Based on “Guardians of The Galaxy” by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning

I’m just going to come out and say it straight and plain so you’ll know exactly where I’m going with this review and if you disagree with me you can then stop reading and go onto to something else that you feel is worth your time. Watching GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY gave me the exact same feeling I had when I saw “Star Wars” for the first time way back in 1977. Yeah, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is that good. It’s that good because it did its job of transporting me to an entire universe of brilliantly colorful characters and spectacularly different worlds. Visually the movie is pure cake and pie. It manages the feat of giving me characters that I thought I knew and making them seem fresh and new. And it tells a rousing story of a group of individuals who overcome their own petty interests and personal demons to make the choice to do the right thing. And by doing so they become Heroes.

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When we meet Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) it’s twenty six years after he was abducted from Earth by Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker). Yondu is the leader of The Ravagers, space pirates who survive and turn a credit anyway they can. Quill has become quite the accomplished thief as he proves when he steals a mysterious orb hidden in a forbidden temple on the equally forbidden planet of Morag.

It isn’t long before Quill realizes that he’s got a highly dangerous object in his possession as he’s pursed by not only Yondu, but Korath (Djimon Honsou) as well. Korath serves the Kree religious fanatic Ronan The Accuser who also wants the orb. Quill tries to sell the orb on the planet Xandar but winds up ambushed by not only Gamora (Zoe Saldana) the deadliest woman in the galaxy but by the most mismatched pair of bounty hunters ever; the genetically engineered Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and the tree-like humanoid Groot (Vin Diesel).  The whole lot of ‘em are arrested by The Nova Corps, the elite police force/militia of Xandar and are thrown into The Kyln, an inescapable space prison. It’s here that they meet up with the formidable Drax The Destroyer (David Bautista) a warrior thirsting for vengeance on Ronan. It’s also here that Quill learns Gamora is the adopted daughter of Thanos, the mad Titan who and has struck a bargain with Ronan; get me the orb and I’ll destroy Xandar for you. It’s up to our band of misfits to break out of The Kyln and keep the orb out of the hands of Ronan as it contains an Infinity Stone, one of the most powerful objects in the universe.

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Now that only covers about the first fifteen minutes of a two hour movie but if that doesn’t make your heart beat a little faster then check yourself into a hospital because you must be dead. But I admit to being heavily biased in favor of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY because it’s been so long since I’ve seen an honest-to-Flash Gordon Space Opera in the movie theaters and even longer since I’ve seen one done this spectacularly well. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is being called a superhero movie and while it does have its superheroish elements, it actually belongs to a older tradition. One that was pioneered by such astounding writers like Leigh Brackett, E.E. “Doc” Smith, Edmond Hamilton. Other creators such a Alex Raymond with “Flash Gordon” and George Lucas with “Star Wars” made significant contributions to the Space Opera and it’s my hope that GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY will jump start this genre in the movies much as “Star Wars” did back in the 70’s.

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The vibe I get from the entire movie is one of total confidence in the material, the direction and the acting. The movie does its best at throwing the most improbable situations and elements at us and damn if we don’t go with it, grinning and cheering. This has been a terrific year for Chris Pratt. Earlier this year he scored big with “The Lego Movie” and now here he is in a leading role which he carries with such ease that you would think he’s been starring in mega budget summer blockbusters for the past ten years. He had me right from the opening credits where he avoids death trap after death trap on the planet Morag while never missing a beat of Redbone’s “Come And Get Your Love” And I think it was nothing less than brilliant to score the movie with pop songs of the 70’s and 80’s. In a bizarre way I think nobody could have seen coming, the songs fit perfectly and the rationale behind why we’re hearing The Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back” and “The Pina Colada Song” by Rupert Holmes while flying around in a starship billions of light years from Earth is a poignant one and a constant reminder to us that there is an Earth out there somewhere.

David Bautista really surprised me in this one as I only know him from “The Man With the Iron Fists” He has way more lines in this one and gets to do way more acting and pulls it off quite well. He also provides more than his share of the comedy relief as Drax tends to take everything Quill says literally. Very literally.  Zoe Saldana essentially is playing a green-skinned incarnation of the character she played in 2010’s “The Losers” but she does it so well that I’m willing to overlook it. Karen Gillian is almost unrecognizable as Nebula, another adopted daughter of Thanos that he’s transformed into a cyborg killing machine but she acquits herself well. I enjoyed her Darth Vader-ish I’m-Outta-Here move during the movie’s major battle scene.

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John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro all provide more than able backup in supporting roles and it wasn’t until I got to the end of the movie that I realized just how star studded this movie is and the level of talent involved. You’ve got more than a few in there who have either won Academy Awards or been nominated for such more than once.

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So should you see GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY? Chances are you already have but if you haven’t then by all means, stop reading this review and go see it right NOW. For once a movie lives up to all the hype and praise heaped on it. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is a movie that for me has saved an otherwise somewhat dull summer movie season and it’s done it by giving me an experience I go to the movies for. It’s action-packed, full of humor and a surprising amount of heart and it’s a movie that I have no doubt will become known as a masterpiece years from now. By all means go see and not only enjoy but be delighted.

PG-13

122 minutes

 

American Pop

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1981

Columbia Pictures

Directed by Ralph Bakshi

Produced by Ralph Bakshi and Martin Ranshohoff

Written by Ronni Kern

Music Adaptation and Original Music by Lee Holdridge

How much do I love AMERICAN POP? I saw the movie during its original theatrical run back in 1981 in a Times Square theater. Back then, they didn’t kick you out after each show was over. If you wanted to stay there all day long and watch the same movie over and over, the management didn’t care as long as you behaved yourself. I stayed to watch AMERICAN POP three times that day. And since then I reckon I’ve seen it maybe two dozen times and I’m still enthralled by the story, the music and the animation.

The animation is done in the rotoscope style Bakshi pioneered during his heyday. Live actors are filmed and then the footage is given to animators who actually draw over the live action images frame by frame. It gave Ralph Bakshi’s movies a look totally unlike any other animated movie being done at the time and I think that he never used it better than he did in AMERICAN POP which also uses archival footage to great effect as well along with some really fabulous water color paintings in the opening credits.

I’ve argued at length with those who insist that Bakshi’s “Wizards” or “Heavy Traffic” is his masterpiece and put AMERICAN POP below those two. I don’t agree, plain and simple. None of Bakshi’s urban movies such as “Fritz The Cat” “Heavy Traffic” or “Hey, Good Lookin’” have aged well at all. But movies such as “Fire and Ice” his fantasy film collaboration with Frank Frazetta, Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway along with his “Lord of The Rings” still hold up very well and are still watchable. In fact, in a lot of ways I prefer Bakshi’s single “Lord of The Rings” movie to Peter Jackson’s trilogy but that’s another review for another time.

AMERICAN POP still holds up very well due to the generational saga that it tells about an immigrant Russian Jewish family whose story is told using the history of American popular music as a backdrop. It takes us from vaudeville to the swing era to the big band era to 1950’s jazz, blues and doowop to the 1960’s folk and rock scene and ends up in the 1980’s and hard rock/punk rock ruling the music charts.

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Zalmie Belinsky (Jeffrey Lippa) escapes Imperial Russia with his mother even his father is killed by Cossacks. Once in America, Zalmie is drawn to the burlesque houses and becomes the sidekick of Louie (Jerry Holland) a second rate performer who becomes his best friend and guardian when Zalmie’s mother dies in a fire. The two become an act, performing for the troops overseas in World War I. It is while performing as the bottom half of a horse act that Zalmie takes a bullet to the throat, ending his dream of becoming a singer.

Zalmie passes on his love of music to his son, Bennie. By this time Zalmie and Louie have become deeply involved in organized crime and Bennie marries the daughter of mob boss Nicky Palumbo at his father’s request. But it’s Bennie’s decision to go fight in World War II. A decision with tragic results.

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Bennie’s son Tony (Ron Thompson) grows up to be an unruly, undisciplined youth with no direction and no plan for the future. But he has the same love of music that drove his father and grandfather. And while he has no talent at singing or playing musical instruments, Tony is a genius when it comes to writing songs. Here’s the part where you have to really suspend your disbelief because according to the movie, Tony writes some to the biggest hits of the 1960’s such as “This Train” “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” “People Are Strange” and “Up, Up and Away.” The credits at the end of the movie acknowledge the actual writers of the song and thanks them for allowing a fictional character to take credit for the songs for the purpose of the movie. The story is that many of the artists whose songs are used in AMERICAN POP were fans of Bakshi and were delighted to have their music included. And I can believe it because the soundtrack of AMERICAN POP is nothing less than astonishing. Songs by Bob Dylan, Sam Cooke, Jefferson Airplane, Pat Benetar, The Mamas & The Papas, Lou Reed, Pete Segar and Herbie Hancock, The Doors and Fabian are used and that’s not even half of the soundtrack.

Tony’s the character we spend the most time with next to Zalmie and the most charismatic. He’s the one who seems to feel the burden of his music inheritance on a spiritual level. He combines a sort of Zen like naivety combined with an old soul that is truly appealing. He’s got most of the movie’s best scenes and lines, such as when he tells a carload of hitchhikers he’s picked up in his cross country travel that the car they’ve been riding in is stolen. And the one night stand he has with a gorgeous blonde haired girl he meets in Kansas sets up an absolutely heartbreaking use of Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me”

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The voice work is outstanding with Ron Thompson as the voice of Tony and Tony’s son Pete leading the way. Marya Small is right behind as Frankie Hart who is a Janis Joplin style singer that meets the same sad fate. Richard Moll has a nice funny bit as a poet in a Greenwich Village coffeshop and Jerry Holland as Louie is just fun to listen to. He creates an entire character history with just his voice. You listen to Louie and you know where he’s been.

So should you see AMERICAN POP? If you haven’t then I don’t wanna know you. You homework assignment is to go see it at your earliest opportunity. I look upon it as Ralph Bakshi’s masterpiece and recommend it highly. It’s a great story with an absolutely killer soundtrack and vibrant, exciting animation that looks great in HD. Enjoy.

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Rated R

96 Minutes

Better In The Dark #160: The Fastest American Incubus Wild Car Maidens

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Episode 160: THE FASTEST AMERICAN INCUBUS’ WILD CAR MAIDENS
It’s time once again for the most anticipated show of the BiTD calender year, The Obscure Movie Episode!  Join Tom and Derrick as they discuss Roy Orbison’s first–and only–movie, demonic cars, generational sagas in cartoon form and Shatner speaking Esperanto!  All this plus permanently puckered hands, why adults are scared of teenagers, and secret agent midgets! You know you don’t want to rely on a three fingered special effects man, so get to clicking! (and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @BITDShow)!

http://www.betterinthedarksite.com/

Lucy

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2014

Universal Pictures

Written and Directed by Luc Besson

Produced by Virginie Silla

I know quite a few people who have said that they’re not going to go see LUCY because it’s “scientifically inaccurate.” You see, the plot of the movie hinges upon the long held belief that human beings only use 10% of their brain capacity and that if we ever gained conscious control of our entire brain then the results would be unimaginable. It could be that we would possess godlike abilities such as telekinesis, telepathy, matter reconstruction, time travel, levitation. The 10% thing has long been debunked as myth and I can’t understand why just because LUCY uses it as a MacGuffin that would keep anyone from seeing it. After all, it’s scientifically inaccurate that a high school student can get bitten by a radioactive spider and suddenly gain the ability to climb walls but that didn’t stop people from enjoying Spider-Man movies. It’s scientifically inaccurate that there are hundreds of alien races so close to humanity that they can breathe our atmosphere, mate with us and in general are configured much like humans but that didn’t stop people from enjoying the various Star Trek movies and television series.

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Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is going to school in Taiwan and after a night of wild partying with her new boyfriend of a week is tricked by him into delivering a locked briefcase to Mr. Jang (Choi Min-sik) a Korean crimelord. The briefcase contains a package of CPH4, a synthetic superdrug that increases brain function. Lucy is drafted into being a drug mule and the package is sewed into her abdomen. There are three other mules, all with identical packages inside their abdomens, heading for different European cities where they will be met by Mr. Jang’s people and the packages removed.

But due to a vicious assault, Lucy’s package leaks and releases CPH4 into her system. It begins expanding her brain functions and she finds herself with greatly enhanced physical capabilities and mental abilities such as telekinesis, telepathy and total control over electronic devices. Due to her now hypergenius status, Lucy realizes she needs the other three packages to continue to expand her capabilities and elevate herself to the next stage of human evolution.

She contacts Professor Samuel Norman (Morgan Freeman) whose research into higher brain functions may be able to help her. And she enlists the aid of a French policeman, Captain Del Rio (Amr Waked) to find and capture the other mules. In the meantime, Mr. Jang is not far behind as he still wants his merchandise and Lucy’s head as well. And he’s bringing an army to get both.

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Now despite what you may have seen in the trailers, LUCY isn’t as much of an action film as you might think. Oh, sure there are gun fights and car chases but this isn’t start-to-finish-punch-punchy-run-run-kiss-kiss-bang-bang which you certainly have a right to expect from Luc Besson. LUCY actually spends quite a bit of its short running time speculating on neuroscience, biology, evolution, philosophy and metaphysics as Lucy struggles to understand what is happening to her and what she will do with her new found knowledge before she ascends to another level of existence.

It’s a lot of fun watching Scarlett Johansson turn from a giddy party girl into Dr. Manhattan from “Watchmen” with a splash of V’ger from “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” added for flavor. As her intelligence and her powers increase, she loses more and more of her emotions but Scarlett Johansson still makes us care for this poor girl who certainly didn’t ask for this to happen to her but desperately wants to do the right thing before she becomes too omnipotent to care.

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Morgan Freeman quite frankly made me crack up because I have never before seen an actor who plainly knows that his one and only function in the movie is to provide plot exposition do it which such gusto. For most of the movie, Freeman is explaining to us what’s happening and what’s going happen and damn if he doesn’t do it in an entertaining manner.

LUCY is a movie that thankfully doesn’t take itself seriously and if you go into it with that attitude that it should be Serious Science Fiction then you’ll be robbing yourself of a solidly made, entertaining thriller than is full of enthusiasm and fun. Luc Besson has yet to make a movie that disappoints me and LUCY is no exception.

Rated R

90 minutes

The Purge: Anarchy

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2014

Universal Pictures

Written and Directed by James DeMonaco

Produced by Jason Blum, Andrew Form, Bradley Fuller, Sebastien Lemercier and Michael Bay

In the interest of full disclosure I should be upfront and say that I had no interest at all in seeing THE PURGE: ANARCHY. I had seen “The Purge” at home about two months ago and thought it one of the most brain dead movies I’d seen in quite a while. Don’t look for a review of it here as I quite honestly wasn’t in the mood that day to rack up wordage on a movie I disliked. But if you do want to read an excellent review of it then I highly recommend you check out Mark Bousquet’s review of “The Purge”

So why did I go see the sequel of a movie that I didn’t like? The theater is why. Patricia and I used to go to a theater on Linden Boulevard here in Brooklyn. But we’ve switched to the Broadway Multiplex Cinema in Hicksville, out in Long Island. Why go all the way out there to go to the movies you ask?

Two-person wide motorized La-Z-Boy leather recliners. That’s why.

We have so fallen in love with the seats in this theater we ended up going to see THE PURGE: ANARCHY even though neither one of us were exactly eager about seeing it. And yeah, I found it just as brain dead as the first one. But I was comfortable as hell while seeing it.

For those of you who didn’t see the first movie (give praise for that) here’s the background. The United States is now administrated by The New Founding Fathers of America who have established The Purge, a 12 hour period taking place annually on March 21/22 from 7PM to 7AM. During this period all crime is legal. Citizens can rob, rape and kill with no fear of legal reprisal whatsoever. The New Founding Fathers insist that The Purge is necessary to give citizens a chance to release their negative and destructive urges. But it’s actually a form of population control as the poor and homeless are usually the victims of The Purge. The rich are rich enough to wait out The Purge in safety in homes that are more like fortified bunkers.

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Diner waitress Eva Sanchez (Carmen Ejogo) hurries home to barricade herself in her apartment along with her daughter Cali (Zoe Soul) and terminally ill father (John Beasley) Married couple Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez) stop at a market to get some groceries before heading to the house of Shane’s sister to spend the night. Police Sergeant Leo Barnes quietly assembles an arsenal of guns and assault rifles before strapping on his body armor and climbing into his armor plated car. He plans on a very special Purge.

Through a complicated series of horrifying events these five people find themselves thrown together, trying to survive the night. They lose the car and are forced to take to the streets, avoiding hordes of bloodthirsty Purgers. During the course of the night they learn that The Founding Fathers have been sending out their own death squads to increase the body count by killing off the lower classes. And if that weren’t enough, the Big Rich have been hiring their own squads to kidnap people and bring them to secure locations where the Big Rich play The Most Dangerous Game. They hunt people, Purging in complete safety as they have weapons and their prey doesn’t.

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When it got to this part in the movie where our five heroes are on the run on foot I realized that the writer/director wanted so bad for this to be a John Carpenter movie as the situation was one that sort of reminded me of Carpenter’s classic “Assault On Precinct 13” turned on its head. But THE PURGE: ANARCHY is so determined to be So Serious and Say Something Profound About America it’s really not that much fun or that interesting to watch. The movie could use a whole heap of social satire ala the original “Death Race 2000” or “The Running Man”

It also doesn’t help that the characters are so thin that I really couldn’t get interested in what happened to them. There’s an attempt to generate some sympathy for the married couple who have agreed to separate but since I don’t know these people, why should I care if they separate or not? And I really can’t get with a movie that wastes the extraordinary talent of Michael K. Williams. He plays Carmelo, leader of an army of resistance fighters determined to bring down The New Founding Fathers and end The Purge. But for most of the movie we see him ranting and raving on a TV screen and he doesn’t show up in the flesh until near the end of the movie when it’s far too late for him to save it.

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And maybe it’s just me but I simply can’t buy that on a night where any and all crime is allowed, everybody turns into a homicidal maniac bent only on slaughtering everybody in sight. Me, I’m either robbing a bank or looting a Costco, a Wal-Mart or a Target. None of this is shown, except for the super of Eva’s building who has rape on the brain. Apparently everybody in America waits for this one night just so they can go blood simple.

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So should you see THE PURGE: ANARCHY? If you liked the first movie then you most likely have already seen this one. But if you haven’t, stay away from it and wait for it to show up on Netflix. It’s not even worth matinee prices.

Unless of course, your theater has two-person wide motorized La-Z-Boy leather recliners.

103 minutes

Rated R

The White Bus

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1967

Woodfall Film Productions

Directed by Lindsey Anderson

Produced by Oscar Lewenstein

Screenplay by Lindsay Anderson and Shelagh Delany

Based on a story by Shelagh Delaney

If you asked me to explain why I decided out of the clear blue to record THE WHITE BUS and watch it, I couldn’t tell you why. I’d never heard of this movie before and it has no names I recognize as far as the actors or director goes. Anthony Hopkins does have an extremely small role in this movie but I didn’t know he was in it until I read his name in the end credits. I was just scrolling through the guide looking for something to watch and the description of this movie sounded interesting so I set the DVR to record it later on. In fact, I forgot I had recorded the movie and didn’t get around to watching it until two weeks later.

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I watched it once. Got to the end, went to get myself something to eat and then sat down to watch it again. Three days later I watched it for a third time. That’s not as much of a chore as you would think since it’s a short film that’s only 46 minutes long. The reason why I watched it those three times is because the more I watched it the more it reminded me of the films of David Lynch and of “Carnival of Souls” directed by Herk Harvey. Not that it’s a horror film. But there’s a bizarre otherworldly feel to the film. It’s dreamlike and downright surrealistic at times. Strange events take place that are never explained and strange behavior that the characters in the movie just seem to accept calmly as if this kind of oddness happens every day. And in the universe of THE WHITE BUS maybe it does.

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The Girl (Patricia Healy) works in a dull office in a dull office building typing dull reports. It’s so dull she fantasizes about hanging herself right at her desk. Leaving work one day, she hops on a train that takes her to another city. She spends some time wandering around the city and seeing such things as a kidnapping that takes place in broad daylight and a man in an iron lung being transported by an entourage of priests and nuns. The Girl boards a white double decker tour bus. The tour group on the bus is a diverse one. Made up of retirees and foreign tourists. The bus makes stops at a steel mill, a science museum, an art gallery and a school. During the tour The Girl barely speaks a word and simply reacts and listens to her companions on this tour such as The Mayor (Arthur Lowe) who seems to be competing with the official tour guide.  Upon visiting a martial arts school to watch a Kendo match, one middle aged gentleman simply joins in the match, using his cane as a Kendo sword. And the final fate of the tour group and The Girl made me think of Herk Harvey and in fact, THE WHITE BUS would make a nice companion piece to “Carnival of Souls” as I saw certain similarities.

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THE WHITE BUS isn’t a movie that I suggest you put on your Must See list. But if you happen to run across it, by all means check it out. I think you’ll find it highly intriguing and visually interesting if nothing else.

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46 minutes

Dawn of The Planet of The Apes

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2014

20th Century Fox

Directed by Matt Reeves

Produced by Peter Chernin Dylan Clark, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver

Written by Mark Bomback, Rick Jaffa, Amanda Silver

Based on characters created by Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver

Premise suggested by “Planet of The Apes” by Pierre Boulle

“Rise of The Planet of The Apes” was one of those movies that surprised me in a good way as I didn’t expect a reboot of the classic “Planet of The Apes” series to be quite that good. I appreciated how “Rise” had so much determination to be a true science fiction movie and not simply an action movie wearing a science fiction dress and makeup. And I think it succeeded. And now we have the sequel with continues and amplifies the story and it’s also a very successful movie on a lot of levels. Like “Rise” it doesn’t depend on the major battle at the end for the resolution of the issues raised by the story and the conflicts of the characters. In “Rise” the climactic battle happened simply because Caesar (Andy Serkis) wanted to take his army of formerly captive simians (now enhanced with ALZ which has greatly boosted their intelligence) out of San Francisco to live in the redwood forests north of that city. In this one, the climactic battle is the result of tragic misunderstandings and a stubborn refusal by some humans and some apes to even consider the concept of the two species living in peace.

Caesar and his colony of apes have lived and thrived in the ten years since they escaped captivity. They wonder if there’s any humans left as they haven’t seen any in two years. The pandemic known as the Simian Flu has pretty much decimated humanity. But there’s a community of genetically immune survivors still living in San Francisco who are getting a little desperate because they need a new power source.

Their only chance is to repair a power station at a dam smack dab in the middle of ape territory. After an initial misunderstanding, a human named Malcolm (Jason Clarke) is able to convince Caesar of the sincerity of their request and Caesar allows them to work at the power plant. This doesn’t fly at all with Caesar’s second-in-command Koba (Toby Kebbell) who points at the grisly scars crisscrossing his body and says that they are also human work. Koba still hasn’t forgotten the mistreatment he suffered at the hands of human scientists in the name of scientific experimentation. And on the human side there’s Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) the leader of the community who promptly arms his people and gives Malcolm three days to get the juice turned back on or Dreyfus will start turning up some juice of his own. Caesar and Malcolm walk a thorny road navigating their own diplomatic relationship and growing friendship as they try to keep the peace between their respective communities. What eventually happens is doomed to failure but I think that the ending tries to say that even in failure there can be nobility.

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DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES caught me at just the right time because I hadn’t been to a movie theater in nearly a month due to my lack of interest in a lot of the summer offerings so far. So I was starved for a good story, solid performances and eye-popping special effects and that’s exactly what I got. Andy Serkis is truly a stand-out actor. As Caesar he gives us a magnificent protagonist who earns his victories and his right to rule because of the strength of his character and the choices he makes for his people and not because he’s “The Chosen One” or destined to do so. Caesar makes his own destiny and he does it without a lot of angst or manufactured drama.

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Jason Clarke, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Keri Russell (I can’t believe I sat through the whole movie thinking she was Jennifer Morrison) provide solid backup as three humans who more or less are mirror images of Caesar, his wife Cornelia (Judy Greer) and his oldest son Blue Eyes (Nick Thurston) who has a really interesting character arc of his own where his loyalties are divided between the ideals of his father and those of Koba. Much like any teenager of any race or species, Blue Eyes longs for the approval of his father but also wants to be acknowledged as being his own ape. He discovers during the events of the movie that those two goals are a lot harder to achieve than he thought. You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned much about Gary Oldman. Well, that’s because he really doesn’t have much to do in this movie, believe it or not. That’s not to say he doesn’t make his presence known. I mean, he is Gary Oldman, after all. But this movie is all about the apes. His role amounts to little more than a cameo on steroids.

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Matt Reeves showed me that he was a director worth keeping an eye on with “Cloverfield” which is the only Found Footage Movie I’d ever recommend to anybody and “Let Me In” a remake just as good as the original. Here he demonstrates that he can do big action scenes really well and most other directors could take lessons from him. Matt Reeves films his action scenes in these really majestic wide shots where you can actually see what is going on. Most so called “action” directors absolutely refuse to point the camera in one direction and insist on whipping it wildly around to the point where I can’t tell what the hell is going on. Thankfully, Matt Reeves realizes that audiences are paying to see the action. There’s a magnificent shot of of a hoard of apes on horseback firing automatic weapons as they charge the human settlement that I’m positive is a homage to a similar scene in “Lawrence of Arabia”

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So should you see DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES? Absolutely. It’s one of the best movies I’ve seen this year so far and is a sequel that doesn’t have to stand in the shadow of its predecessor. In much the same way Blue Eyes earns the respect of his father, DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES earns it’s respect as its own movie. Enjoy.

131 minutes

Rated PG-13

1776

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1972

Columbia Pictures

Directed by Peter H. Hunt

Produced by Jack L. Warner

Written by Peter Stone

Based on the stage musical “1776” with music and lyrics by Sherman Edwards and a book by Peter Stone

The members of the Continental Congress are thisclose to signing the Declaration of Independence but Edward Rutledge (John Cullum) the representative from South Carolina is adamant in wanting the slavery clause removed before he will sign it. John Adams (William Daniels) is just as adamant in that it stay in. Benjamin Franklin (Howard Da Silva) begs his friend to give in just this once. Adams replies that posterity will never forgive them if they do. Franklin’s answer is one that I think says exactly why I love 1776 so much: “That’s probably true, but we won’t hear a thing, we’ll be long gone. Besides, what would posterity think we were? Demi-gods? We’re men, no more no less, trying to get a nation started against greater odds than a more generous God would have allowed.”

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1776 treats the Founding Fathers as just that: men. Oh yes, they’re men of staggering accomplishments, intelligence and talents. But still just men. John Adams is obnoxious and disliked, even by his closest friends. Benjamin Franklin hides a devious manipulative nature and a tsunami-sized ego behind jocularity and razor sharp humor. Thomas Jefferson (Ken Howard) would much rather be home knocking boots with his hot wife (Blythe Danner) than creating a new nation. John Hancock (David Ford) just wants to be somewhere other than Philadelphia in the stifling hot summer. Richard Henry Lee (Ron Holgate) is a raging narcissist with an ego equally the size of Franklin’s but he’s only got half the brains. Stephen Hopkins (Roy Poole) is a cantankerous old bastard who apparently has joined Congress mainly because of the free rum he is constantly being served by the long suffering clerk McNair (William Duell).

I think that by presenting such towering historical figures in such a down-to-earth manner is exactly the way to go with 1776 which tells the story of how The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4th, 1776. John Adams of Massachusetts heads up one faction that favors independence from England. John Dickenson (Donald Madden) of Pennsylvania leads the faction that wants to reconcile with England. Through debate and song we watch as these two factions discuss and argue the fate of their fledgling nation and it’s a lot of fun to watch them as they do so.

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It was a solid creative decision on the part of producer Jack L. Warner to cast the movie with actors who had been in the Broadway stage performance of 1776 as they know this material inside and out and play it accordingly. Howard Da Silva and William Daniels are tied with the acting honors in this one. Most people think of William Daniels as either the voice of K.I.T.T. from “Knight Rider” or Mr. Feeney from “Boy Meets World.” I always think of him as Dr. Mark Craig from “St. Elsewhere” or as John Adams here. Yes, his John Adams is abrasive and lacking in diplomacy but his motives are honorable and that softens his edges. And I think it’s an excellent idea to have two songs back to back: “Sit Down, John” and “Till Then” that show Adams from two different perspectives. “Sit Down, John” is sung by Congress and displays their disgust with him while “Till Then” is a tender duet Adams sings with his wife Abagail (Virginia Vestoff) where we see his softer side. Ken Howard as Thomas Jefferson is also a standout, particularly in the later scenes where Congress ruthlessly tears apart the precious Declaration he has poured his soul into with their petty debates over the wording. Howard says more with his silence and the expressions on his face than he could have with pages of dialog.

But a musical has to stand and fall on the music and 1776 stands tall in this respect. “Sit Down, John” is a rousing way to start the movie, full of vigor and humor. “But, Mr. Adams” is both clever and witty as Adams, Franklin, Jefferson, Roger Sherman (Rex Robbins) and Robert Livingston (John Myhers) argue in song about who should actually sit down and write the Declaration. My favorite is “The Lees of Old Virginia” which for me is one of the greatest show stopping songs in musical history. In fact, my only complaint with 1776 is that“The Lees of Old Virginia” comes twenty minutes into the movie and there’s really no other song after that one which comes close. Especially as sung by Ron Holgate who tears it up with such magnificent energy you can’t help but smile and sing along. And toward the end, the songs get darker and more somber such as “Is Anybody There” where John Adams really lets loose and expresses his frustrations. And “Molasses To Rum” sung by Rutledge in which he lays out explicitly the hypocrisy enjoyed by the Northern states when it comes to the issue of slavery. If you’ve never heard John Cullem sing, you’re in for a treat when you watch 1776.

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And should you watch 1776? If you’re a lover of musicals, you probably already have. If you’ve never seen it, I envy you watching it for the first time. It’s an absolute joy to watch from beginning to end. The cast is first rate and the songs are wonderful. Every year for the past ten years I’ve made it a point to watch 1776 every 4th of July as Turner Classic Movies faithfully shows it on that day. The only reason I don’t watch it more often is because I’m holding out for the Blu-Ray. But don’t you wait. If you’ve never seen 1776, get hold of a DVD copy and enjoy.

PG

142 minutes