True Lies

     True Lies – “I’m beginning to like this guy.  Oh, we still have to kill him.  That’s a given.”  I love this film.  True Lies is a roller coaster of comedy and action that is always coming at you.  While some of the plot is a bit much, the actors act and react they way you would expect keeping you involved.  However, it does go a tad too long and gets out of character at the ending.  Regardless, it’s a fun ride from start to finish.  Rated 72% at Rotten Tomatoes and 4.5 stars at Amazon, this is a “mindless” good time.

Plot – Harry Tasker (Arnold Schwarzenegger) leads a double life as a computer salesman to his wife Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis) and a counter-terrorist spy for the US Govt.  Helen is totally fooled.  Harry is joined by Gib (Tom Arnold) and Faisil (Grant Heslov) for the govt team.  His mission to Switzerland reveals an Islamist terrorist plot against the US and he meets Juno Skinner (Tia Carrera), an antiques dealer who he thinks has ties to the terrorists.  But his work is interfering with his married life.  Harry goes to Helen’s office to surprise her and take her to lunch, but he overhears a conversation about “Simon” and Helen.  He uses govt resources to track down Simon and finds he’s a used car salesman using the spy routine to seduce his wife.  The govt team breaks in on them and takes Helen back to their office to find she was bored and lonely.  To give her adventure, he sends Helen on a sham mission to plant a bug on an arms dealer.  During the sham mission, the real terrorists kidnap Harry & Helen.  At the terrorist camp, he reveals everything to Helen and they escape with lots of explosions and bullets flying.  But, Helen is recaptured.  They discover the terrorists are trying to set off a nuclear weapon and they call in the jets to blow up the bridge, but Harry has to still save his wife.  Once Helen is saved and some of the terrorists are dealt with, he finds his daughter is kidnapped and he must save the day.  At the end, a year has passed and the Taskers are a spy family….and there’s a funny “reunion” with Simon that shouldn’t be missed. 

Commentary – This movie is a great mixture of action and comedy.  Ok, the whole middle-eastern terrorist plot has been done to death and the film was criticized for it.  But, it was made during the time that this was a concern in America and before 9/11 happened.  Don’t let that keep you away from this film.  The secondary characters really sell the movie.  This was probably the best acting Tom Arnold ever did and Jamie Lee Curtis plays the naive wife perfectly.   There is some adult language and the some mild sexual moments, but the film is pretty tame.  While the movie does have its flaws, you’ll find that you can not turn away from this movie and want to watch it over and over.

Trivia – Jamie Lee Curtis and Arnold Schwarzenegger did many stunts in the film.  That woman hanging from the chopper is really Jamie Lee Curtis.  A sequel was being prepared, but after 9/11 in 2001, the director felt the “terrorist” angle could no longer be funny.  In the striptease scene, Helen falling down was not part of the script as she actually just fell down, but the reactions were so great that they kept going giving the scene a great moment in the movie.

*** Just click the images to check out “True Lies” at Amazon.com ***

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Shanghai Noon

     Shanghai Noon – “C’mon Roy, you can do it.  Ah, no you can’t.  He’s gonna kill ya.”  This was ALMOST a great film, but it’s still a great movie to watch.  East meets West…Karate meets gunfights….Indians, Chinese, and cowboys….What’s not to like?  Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson team up in this action comedy and you get the best of both worlds.  The movie starts off great, but somewhere along the line loses focus on the plot.  However, the chemistry of Chan and Wilson is undeniable and you will enjoy watching the film regardless.  The comedy is hilarious and the action scenes get your adrenaline pumping.  The old west shootouts with Wilson’s melodrama is perfect and the spoof of Lee Van Cleef is just fun for fans of the spaghetti western genre.  Rated 79% at rotton tomatoes and 4.5 stars at Amazon.com, you won’t be disappointed.

Plot – The plot is almost secondary to the film, but here goes.  The Chinese Princess Pei Pei (Lucy Liu) escapes China to avoid an arranged marriage.  In reality, she’s unknowingly kidnapped and they demand gold for her return.  Chon Wang (Jackie Chan) and other Imperial Guards are sent to America to retrieve her.  On the train to Carson City, it is attacked by western train robbers.  The gang includes Roy O’Bannon (Owen Wilson), but his group also includes a crazy Texan who kills Wang’s uncle.  They struggle, but Wang escapes the gang.  Wang is lost, but comes across Roy buried up to his neck.  In exchange for directions, he “helps” Roy out.  Following Roy’s directions, he climbs over the mountains and notices war indians chasing an indian boy from a different tribe.  Wang saves him in typical Chan style and is brought back to the good indian tribe where he accidentally marries an indian girl.  Wang finds Roy in a bar and they fight and get arrested.  Wang’s indian wife saves them, but now they’re a team and out to save the princess.  They finally meet the bad guys in an abandoned church to deliver the ransom.  A shootout takes place where they save the princess and she wants to stay in America.

Commentary – The movie has an excellent story going on, but essentially has too much going on to close it out.  However, the jokes are funny and not necessarily politically correct.  The spoof of old American westerns is excellent.  “Chon Wang” translated by Roy to “John Wayne?…That’s a terrible western name.”  And Marshall Nathan Van Cleef pays homage to Lee Van Cleef character from many spaghetti westerns like “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” is funny.  “How do you survive out here?” he asks Roy.  Some language is strong, but it’s not too bad of a movie for middle aged kids.  The action is typical Jackie Chan.  Bottomline is that it’s a great film to watch…even if not a truly great film.  I recommend getting the combo dvd with Shanghai Knights.  While “Knights” isn’t as good as “Noon”, it’s still a good film to enjoy as well.  Besides, from a cost standpoint, it just makes sense.

Trivia – The catchy quote in the film “I don’t know karate, I know crazy” is actually a line from a James Brown song.  Actress Brandon Merrill, who plays Wang’s indian wife Falling Leaves, is a real life rodeo champion.  The Chinese characters in the background of the opening credits are excerpts from a translation of “The Frog Prince”

*** Just click the images to check out “Shanghai Noon/Shanghai Nights” at Amazon.com ***


Taken

     Taken – “I believe you.  But, that won’t save you.”  This action thriller from 2008 is straight, aggressive, and to the point.  You get so involved in each scene that you don’t even notice that an hour and a half has gone by.  I thought this movie was about 30 minutes long until I checked the clock.  Liam Neeson does an excellent job switching from father to CIA operative and the steps he uses to find his daughter are logical and flowing.  Granted some “convenient” occurances aid in his success, but at least the “unbelievable” is kept to a minimum.  The truly enjoyable part of this film is watching a father saving his daughter and exacting revenge on the bad guys as most people wished happened in real life.  It’s swift, painful, and brutal which is what any father would want if it were his daughter.  Critics didn’t care for the film rating it 58% at Rotten Tomatoes, but the fans liked it at 83% and gave it 4 stars at Amazon.com.

Plot – Bryan (Liam Neeson) is a retired CIA operative trying to rebuild a relationship with his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace).  His ex-wife and wealthy new husband seem to upstage his attempts, even at her birthday.  The next day, Bryan is to meet Kim for lunch and his ex-wife shows up.  They surprise him with his daughter’s plan to go to France/Europe with her 19 year old friend Amanda, which he is against.  After being badgered, he relents giving his daughter an international cell phone to contact him.  Upon arriving, they get to the apartment meeting a handsome stranger.  While getting situated, Bryan calls Kim because she hasn’t called him.  While talking, she notices men entering and kidnapping Amanda.  Bryan gives her instructions to help aid him as she’s being taken.  Bryan arrives in France and surveys the scene for clues.  Then, he meets an old friend from the French Intelligence, who is now a desk bureaucrat, and gets a tip where to start, but warns him to keep it quiet.  He gets to a brothel at a construction site and discovers a prostitute with a major clue that leads him to the kidnappers.  Posing as French agent, he invades the “conversion house” for kidnapped girls and takes one of the kidnappers into a room for brutal torture to get information.  He gains the information needed to discover who is trafficking the girls.  Getting into the mansion, he finds where the slave auction going on and finds his daughter, but is captured.  Able to escape, he finds out who bought her and traces him down……

Commentary – Being that the movie is so straight-forward, I tried not to reveal too much of the critical scenes.  The movie taps into a deep fear of any parent that someone would take their child and the naivety of cruelty in the world.  Reality is that we can not do what Bryan does and, therefore, the emotional grab is the unnerving.  The movie has excellent action and suspense, but lacks the “twist” at the end.  But, as mentioned before, you’ll be so sucked into the story that you’ll never even notice.  This is a thrill ride movie and the excitement is not in the ending, but in the journey.  So, don’t worry about trying to figure it out and stay focused on what you’re watching.  You won’t even have time for a bathroom break because you don’t want to miss anything.

Trivia – The martial arts style used by Neeson in the film is called Nagasu Do…a hybrid styling borrowing Judo, Aikido, and Ju Jitsu.  Liam Neeson was trained by former Special Air Service soldier, Mick Gould, for handling weapons and combative scenes.  The curved knife used in the final fight scene is a karambit.  It’s an Indonesian/Malasian weapon with a fingerhole in the handle making it very difficult to disarm.

** Just click the images to check out “Taken” at Amazon.com **


Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade

     Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade – “You lost today, kid.  But that doesn’t mean you have to like it.”  The 3rd film of the Indiana Jones series returns Indiana to the action/comedy of the original.  The 2nd movie, “Temple of Doom” was too dark and incorporated an intolerable female character and the disgusting insertion of a tag along child that doesn’t fit with the character.  Unfortunately, inserting kids into movie sequels is too common.  However, some people liked it, but I have never missed not seeing that one again.  In the 3rd installment, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) teams up with his father, Professor Jones played by Sean Connery, who is an archaeologist as well searching for the Holy Grail.  As most adults will admit, trying to take on a monumental task with their parent will only lead to frustration and missunderstandings.  Thus, a great movie is born.  Rated 89% at Rotten Tomatoes and 4.5 stars by Amazon.com, this movie is a treat for the entire family.

Plot – The movie starts with a back drop to young Indiana Jones and his love for adventure.  While in the boy scouts, he stumbles on some robbers in a cave that find an ornamental cross belonging to Coronado (Spanish conquistador).  Young Jones steals the cross and is chased through a circus train before making it home.  The robbers and a crooked Sherriff arrive at his house and he’s forced to return it.  The robber gives Jones his fedora and encouraging words.  As an adult, Jones recovers the cross.  While donating it to the museum, he discovers his father is missing while searching for the Holy Grail.  Soon after, he receives a package containing his father’s diary.  Knowing he is in trouble, Jones sets off to Venice where he was last seen.  Jones discovers the castle where his father is being held and breaks in.  He finds his father and realizes that he was captured by the Nazi’s (Indiana’s long time foes from the first film).  They want the Holy Grail as well.  They break out and the adventure begins.  Through countless chases and action scenes, they finally arrive to the location of the Grail.  After surviving the 3 challenges to get to the Grail, he encounters the knight that found the Grail.  The Nazis now enter seeing numerous “grails”.  The knight warns them to “choose wisely”.

Commentary –  The movie brings Indiana back to the guy we enjoyed in the original film.  The comedic back and forths with his father will likely remind you of your frustrations with your own parents.  I did.  One of the funniest scenes is when Jones is retrieving his father’s book from Berlin and stumbles right into the path of the leader of his most hated rivals…Hitler himself.  I won’t tell you how it works out, but the encounter is hilarious.  So, if you enjoyed the original Indiana Jones, then you’ll enjoy this movie as well.  There’s plenty of action, comedy, and suspense to keep you enthralled throughout.

Trivia – Steven Speilberg (director) always wanted Sean Connery to play Indiana’s dad as an inside joke that James Bond was Indiana’s father.  In the movie, we learn “Indiana” is really “Henry Jones Jr.” and that he got his name from the family dog.  Finally, while watching Indiana wrestle with the other Nazi guard through the periscope on the tank, the Nazi tells his teammates in German that “The Americans.  They fight like girls.”

**  Just click to images to check out “Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade” at Amazon.com **


Indiana Jones & Raiders of the Lost Ark

      Raiders of the Lost Ark – Is there anything else that you could possibly want in a movie?  If there is, then something’s wrong with you.  This movie has it all…action, drama, romance, thrills, suspense, horror, and a bit of comedy.  This is the equivalent of a movie roller coaster and a sheer classic.  Every guy who sees this film wants to be him and any woman that sees this film wants a man like him.  And the critics agree with 94% rating at Rotten Tomatoes, a full 5 stars at Amazon.com, and is listed at #66 on AFI’s greatest films in history.  And, in 1999, the film was included in the Library of Congress’s film archive for culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant films.

The plot is that Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) is an archeologist in 1936.  After getting back from one grand adventure, he’s interviewed by Army Intelligence, who informs him that the Nazis are trying to acquire religeous & occult power.  They are searching for his former mentor, Abner Ravenwood, because he has an Egyptian piece they need called the Staff of Ra.  Jones deduces that they are after the Ark of the Covenant (a Biblical chest from Israel containing the fragments of the Ten Commandments & essentially the power of God).  He travels to Nepal only to discover Ravenwood has died, but finds his daughter & bitter former lover Marion (Karen Allen).  He tries to buy the staff when the bar is raided by Nazis.  They escape, but she insists in joining him so that he can repay his debt.  They infiltrate the Nazi dig in Tanis, Egypt and Jones realizes that they have miscalculated its location.  He and a friend, Sallah, find the real Ark of the Covenant, but are captured in the process.  They’re entombed in the site, but find away to escape.  After catching up with the Nazis, who want to ship the Ark back to Berlin, but the Nazi general detours to an island to test the power of the Ark before presenting it to Hitler.  Jones reveals himself threatening to blow it up, but can not do it and is captured.  He and Marion are tied to a pole as the Nazis open the Ark.  Suddenly, kindly spirits appear and fly about, but then transform into demon images destroying the Nazis.  Army Intelligence tells Jones the Ark is being studied, but in reality is kept in a govt warehouse.

The description of the plot doesn’t due justice to how well the movie is told and the action sequences in between.  There is a constant feast for the eyes, the mind, and the heart.  Ford is as charming as ever and is all man in this movie.  However, a fun fact is that the name “Indiana” Jones doesn’t refer to anything spectacular about the state of Indiana.  In reality, George Lucas (producer) once had a dog named “Indiana” and thought it would be great to use the name for the character….woof woof….He loved that dog.  Originally released in 1981, this is the 30th anniversary of this great film.  Hard to believe it’s this old, but the movie is still excellent and will still keep you on the edge of your seat for the entire time.  It’s one of the best you’ll ever watch.

** Just click the images to check out “Raiders of the Lost Ark” at Amazon.com **


The Mummy (1999)

     The Mummy (1999) – Surprisingly good movie bringing out the mummy.  Frankly, I’m more of a fan of the classic monsters so the CGI version had me a little hesitant.  However, I was quite surprised how good it was.  A nice mixture of horror, comedy, and action, this movie plays out as a great adventure.  The special effects are outstanding and nicely played into the movie without dominating the actors roles.  The critics at Rotten Tomatoes only gave this movie a 54%, but the fans gave it a 75%.  And, it gets 4 stars at Amazon.com showing that the people that watch the film no more than the critics.  The best part of the movie is the constant action.  You won’t get bored during this film.

The plot is that in ancient Egypt, the high priest Imhotep has an affair with Anck-su-Namun, Pharoah Seti’s mistress.  But, they are caught by the Pharoah and kill Seti.  Anck-su-Namun kills herself believing Imhotep will resurrect her.  However, he is caught by Seti’s guards and given the Hom Dai, being mummified alive in Hamunaptra.  In the meantime, Rick (played by Brendon Fraser), is a soldier in the foriegn legion in Hamunaptra and encounters some strange occurances after surviving an attack by desert raiders.  Evie (played by Rachel Weisz) is a librarian and aspiring Egyptologist and has a theiving scamp of a brother.  He just happens to steal the map to Hamunaptra from Rick, who is now in prison.  For saving his life, he agrees to take her there.  On the voyage, they find out that another group of treasure hunters are going there.  After getting there, they stumble across the “Book of the Dead”.  Evie can’t help herself and in reading it awakens the mummy.  He returns to bring Anck-su-Namun back to life.  After regenerating by sucking the life out of the treasure hunters, he kidnaps Evie to sacrifice and bring Anck-su-Namun back.  But, Rick and Evie’s brother Jonathon, battle Imhotep and the mummies to save her life.  After pulling some ancient Egyptian magic, Rick is able to save the day. 

With constant action and comedy, this movie is a winner.  There are some tense moments as well to keep you on the edge of your seat.  This movie spawned a sequel that is extremely entertaining as well, but unfortunately, doesn’t quite pull the same magic as the original.  Most of it is excellent and it is definitely worth watching, but the main special effect, which is still quite impressive, is a essentially a copy cat of the original.  They could have used a little more creativity here.  They also expect you to believe in a jet powered hot air balloon, but anyone with common sense knows it would just spin in one spot when the jets are turned on.  Maybe I’m a little picky here because it is incorporated well into the movie.  Finally, the ending and revelation of the Scorpion King is rather disappointing.  This is the only really bad part in the movie.  The CGI Scorpion King is terrible and looks fake.  There is a good battle scene and ending, but this will stick with you a little.  However, if you over look these couple of flaws, it is still an excellent movie to watch with a good story, nasty mini-mummies that are loads of fun, and lots of great action & comedy, but it is not as good as the original due to the flaws mentioned.  I recommend watching both, but you need to know the sequal movie’s flaws to avoid being let down.

** Just click the images to see “The Mummy” & “The Mummy Returns” at Amazon.com **


Die Hard

     Die Hard – Remember when Bruce Willis was cool?  I do…It just happens to be the year I graduated high school.  Wow….How old am I?  But, I gotta tell you, when he was cool, he was DAMN cool.  Released in 1988, Die Hard has become an ICON of the action film genre.  Rated 94% at Rotten Tomatoes & 4.5 stars at Amazon.com, this film is under-rated.  With one of the most famous lines in cinema history, “Yippee Kai Yay, Mutha*******”, it has dominated American pop-culture as this line was uttered by nearly every teenager in America.  The beauty of this film is that the villian is as smart as he is deadly.  He’s a true intellect that understands and plans for every outcome.  At the same time, realism permeates the film as John McClane acts how a cop would in many of the decisions such as trying to get assistance in various ways rather than just trying to be the Lone Ranger against all of the bad guys.  However, that ends up being the case in most of the film, but the initiators of the action are the bad guys rather than McClane.  It was also refreshing to see the hero make several mistakes rather than being perfect the entire film.

The plot is excellent.  A group of “terrorists” take over the Nakatomi building on Christmas Eve.  Unfortunately for them, John McClane (Bruce Willis) is an NYC policeman in town to see his wife and kids.  While in the bathroom, the terrorists strike and he escapes to unfinished areas of the building.  Hahns Gruber (Alan Rickman) is the leader of the terrorists organizing the operation.  We soon learn their intentions.  John tries to notify the authorities with a radio, fire alarm, gun fire, and even makes good use of one of the terrorists to get their attention.  They proceed with their operation sending team after team after McClane.  Using all of his detective skills, he must win the intellectual battle with Hans as well as the physical battle with the muscle in the terrorist group.

This would have to be considered one of the ultimate “man movies” with non-stop action, suspense, and intellectual drama throughout.  Neither John or Hans is perfect and makes mistakes which is refreshing, yet they make some brilliant moves as well in their constant game of “cat and mouse”.  They are constantly trying to out-wit the other.  In between the action scenes, add numerous man-style jokes and testosterone driven one-liner comedy and you’ve got one great action flick.  This is an all-time great and an all-time favorite.  When it comes to action films, it doesn’t get much better than Die Hard.  While themed at Christmas, most of the movie is so action packed that you barely notice the few holiday scenes.  So, don’t let this hold you up.  You can watch this movie anytime.

** Just click the images to check out “Die Hard” at Amazon.com **