A young Puss in Boots (Anotnio Banderas) is an orphaned kitten that makes his home at an orphanage in San Ricardo with his adoptive mother and best friend, Humpty Dumpty (Zach Galifianakis). Perpetual outcast and lofty dreamer, Humpty, and his made blood brother, Puss, have their fair share of run-ins with the Comandate (Guillermo del Toro!) and the law. One such incident tears the duo apart, forcing Puss to go on the run as a wanted feline.
It isn’t until years later that Puss is reunited with Humpty through a mysterious, masked caper who reveals herself as Kitty Softpaws (Selma Hayek). The three of them embark on an adventure to steal magic beans from a couple of brutish outlaws, Jack and Jill, to gain entrance to the castle in the sky for the giant’s riches. After successfully stealing the booty, all of their troubles begin.
I went into this expecting another ill-conceived, pointless spin-off but what I got was a silly, well-animated flick with plenty of humor and a genuinely emotional story to balance it out. I was literally laughing out loud. Maybe too loudly at the glaucoma/catnip reference that flew over the little ones’ heads and, to top it off, I was the only one… that was awkward. Needless to say, it felt good to connect with the kid inside of me and at the same time snicker at jokes clearly aimed at the adults in the audience. Good family fun for all ages!
A treasure hunter, Daniel (Sean Patrick Flannery), is searching for the legendary cache of Genghis Khan but it’s guarded by the famed cryptid, the Mongolian Death Worm. The creature’s nest is disturbed by the drilling of an American oil company that has set up shop in the Gobi Desert for an experimental project. Miles away, villagers are plagued by sickness and the only people to help them are Steffi (Jon Mack) and a few other nurses/doctors. They desperately await medicine and supplies from Alicia (Victoria Pratt) and Philip (Nate Rubin) who, en route to the makeshift clinic, cross paths with Daniel. All three of them are seized by token badass and outlaw, Kowlan (Billy Blair), and his thug posse.
Like most of SyFy’s productions, this has cheese galore, piss poor acting except for Pratt and Rubin, and crappy special effects but my biggest qualm is that the story takes forever to unfold. Most scenes take place at the oil drilling plant where the worms are scarce. This movie is called Mongolian Death Worm, right? Am I missing something? Yeah, the Mongolian Death Worms! Perhaps they were hiding from the cameras, embarrassed to be a part of this hideous movie, until the last 20 minutes when they sprung from the earth out of sheer curiosity or out of duty to the production company. The conversation probably went something like this…
Frank: Are they still up there?
Gordo: I think so. Let’s go check it out.
Frank: For $35, they’re getting one shot, that’s it.
Gordo: WTF? I only got, like, $20. All they’re getting from me is my tail.
Frank: Wow, dude, that’s harsh, sorry. What I wouldn’t give to eat one of the bastards.
Gordo: Victoria Pratt looks yummy.
Frank: On three?
Gordo: On three.
Frank: One… two… three!
When they finally decide to make an appearance, the Mongolian Death Worms are as threatening as common backyard earthworms. Even when they gobble someone up, all you see is the person’s legs and, weirdly, zero blood. Clearly, no humans were harmed in the making of this film. Being an extremely low budget flick, they poured what little cash they had into CGI and had none left over for make-up, not even for bruises (which a person usually ends up with after being sucker punched in the face). And who else was expecting a cameo by Genghis Khan after the ominous tale of his treasure trove and his Mongolian Death Worm protectors? I was disappointed. Very, very disappointed.
Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up on a train to discover he’s assumed the identity (and body) of someone named Sean Fentress. Confusion quickly sets in for the military pilot – his last memory is of a mission gone haywire in Afghanistan. Eight minutes later, after the train explodes, he’s strapped inside a cold, dark pod. He is soon contacted by Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) who bombards him with questions about the train and the explosion. Struggling to make sense of what happened, he fires back with questions of his own. Careful not to disclose too much information, Goodwin instructs him that he has eight minutes to track down the bomb and the bomber. Any deviation from the mission, including trying to save passengers, is highly discouraged.
He’s transported back into Sean’s body over and over until, finally, he speaks to a man who appears to be in charge of the mysterious operation, Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright). It turns out that Colter is in a project called Source Code, which allows him to relive the last eight minutes of Sean’s life in order to gather valuables clues about the bomber. For Rutledge, it’s about the objective. For Colter, it’s now about saving the lives of the passengers, particularly Christina (Michelle Monaghan), the pretty and flirtatious passenger he’s steadily been growing feelings for. One problem: Source Code is not time travel – it’s time reassignment. It’s metaphysics, quantum theory, and a host of other scientific concepts that will likely fly over most viewers’ heads but don’t worry, you don’t need to understand how Source Code works in order to enjoy the movie.
Source Code has been mentioned with and compared to Nolan’s wildly popular dream invasion flick, Inception. Having seen both, I urge you not to go into Source Code expecting an Inception knock-off. While both films have their strengths, I found Jones’ action/sci-fi/thriller miles better with its character development. Another plus is that it has a very Hitchcockian/The Twilight Zone feel to it in that it relies on its story and the actors, rather than extravagant CGI and a dramatic soundtrack. Having said that, as much as I gripe about the over-use of CGI, the special effects in this movie are rather underwhelming and a bit dated. No biggie, though. This isn’t the kind of movie that relies on grandiose computer generated imaging and it’s certainly not hindered by any lack of it.
Ironically, I loved this film (and its delightfully dreamy leading man) until the last eight minutes. A 9/10 knocked down to an 8/10 for its ridiculously sentimental, typical Hollywood “and they all lived happily ever after” ending. I’m not a pessimist. I root for the underdog. I believe in soulmates and love at first sight. I like to see karma reward the good guy or gal but closure should be a resolution that makes sense for the characters and viewers in a way that doesn’t completely insult either parties. There’s poignant (frozen kiss) and then there’s sickly sweet (let’s go look at our reflections in the big, shiny thing).
I think Source Code is more suited for mainstream audiences than films like Inception or 12 Monkeys so I give it the go-ahead to most of you out there.
A couple of British comic book geeks, Graeme Willy (Simon Pegg, Shaun of the Dead) and Clive Gollings (Nick Frost, Hot Fuzz), are in America for a science fiction convention and a subsequent RV roadtrip to the famed Area 51. En route, they meet an alien Paul who has been inhabiting a top-secret military base for the past 60 years. Desperate to leave Earth, he convinces the duo to help him get to the mother ship’s landing area. They soon find out that Paul is being chased by a relentless government agent, Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman), who enlists the assistance of two inept feds, Haggard and O’Reilly.
They end up kidnapping Ruth (Kristen Wiig), a sheltered, unyielding religious zealot, which prompts her father to join in the pursuit. Along the way, they visit Tara (Blythe Danner), the human whose dog Paul crashed his ship on six decades earlier. After years of ridicule and harassment, she’s relieved to see Paul does indeed exist. Graeme, Clive, Paul, and Tara flee the premises after Zoil, Haggard, and O’Reilly raid her house. With the agents and Ruth’s father hot on their heels, can they get Paul safely to his mother ship in time?
Fans of the zany U.K. pair will relish this sci-fi/comedy collaboration featuring the voice talents of Seth Rogan as Paul. It’s directed by Greg Mottola who also directed the rude, crude Superbad and Paul follows in its footsteps with a lot of swearing and vulgar humor. Not as laugh out loud funny as Shaun of the Dead but it has its moments of utter hilarity. Sci-fi nerds will appreciate many of the references to movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T., to name a couple. The CGI Paul blends seamlessly in with the flesh and blood characters. I loved the cameo by Sigourney Weaver – she’s still kicking ass and looks beautiful and cool doing it.
I do have to warn Christians and other religious types to avoid this movie if you can’t take a pretty harsh mocking of your beliefs. Ruth’s entire life is measured by her strict moral code, only for her faith and Bible instructed principles to be shattered by the knowledge of the universe that Paul telepathically shares with her. She transforms from a wholesome girl (although, wholesome may not be the right adjective, considering she wears a shirt that has Jesus shooting Darwin) to a cussing, pot-smoking, sin-seeking fugitive. Just a warning.
Kyle (Alex Pettyfer, I Am Number Four) is a handsome, popular, rich kid who is also a grade-A jerk but blame that on his conceited, inattentive father who is more concerned about his career as an anchorman than with his own son. At least that’s what the film wants you to do. Like father, like son.
After Kyle plays a cruel prank on another student, Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen, Full House), she transforms him into a bald, boil-covered, tattooed freak. It turns out Michelle Tanner grew up to be a witch dressed in emo-inspired haute couture clothing. Oops, not exactly the person you want to invite to the prom and then publicly humiliate. He has one year to find someone to fall in love with him or he’s cursed to stay ugly as hell forever. A blind girl, maybe?
Nope, Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens, High School Musical), a fellow student who moves in with him after he saves her and her father from muggers. The blind person turns out to be a tutor, Will (Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother), hired by Kyle’s father. Kyle was moved into a place of his own after doctors told his father that, um no, a face transplant is not a viable option.
We are all familiar with the tale of Beauty and the Beast so we all know where the characters are headed and what happens at the end. This isn’t the kind of film for special effects or over-choreographed fight scenes so that leaves the acting.
Both Alex Pettyfer and Vanessa Hudgens are easy on the eyes but their acting skills have yet to be fully developed, or developed at all. It seems like Pettyfer is trying but Hudgens has one or two facial expressions in her repertoire. I’ve seen better acting from my daughter’s sock puppets. The saving grace is Neil Patrick Harris whose comedic timing is sublime. He breathes some life into this flat fantasy.
Parents, this is okay to let your tween/teen watch but I don’t recommend it.
After the last war between vampires and humans, the Church sets up a walled off society where the people are oppressed and controlled by the constant reminder that “to go against the Church is to go against God”. After learning his niece, Lucy (Lily Collins, The Blind Side), was abducted by a vampack, Priest (Paul Bettany) disobeys the Church by traveling to the wastelands to rescue her. Her boyfriend, the town’s sheriff (Cam Gigandet, Pandorum), accompanies him on his quest, along with Priestess, who defies the Church’s orders to bring him back dead or alive.
The three of them go on a mission to track down Black Hat, another Warrior Priest who was believed to have been killed in Mira Sola, but turns out to have been turned into the first vampire/human hybrid by the vampire Queen. He plans to dispatch an army of vampires via train into the Church’s city and destroy all inhabitants there. Priest, Priestess, and Hicks are now saddled with two missions – save Lucy and stop the train before it reaches the city.
Priest is a fusion of western, post-apocalyptic, science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres very loosely based on a manhwa (Korean comic), Hangul, by Hyung Min-woo. The animated sequences in the start of the film are awesome. It’s a shame that it all turns to drivel once the real actors hit the screen. Paul Bettany, who will forever be the most perfect Geoffrey Chaucer in my mind, has certainly been choosing some, uh, interesting roles lately. But don’t get me wrong, I dig him as a vampire slaying action hero just as much as an English poet.
This is a fine flick to veg out on but, Hollywood, please stop with the crappy CGI vampires/monsters/creatures/animals already. The familiars (humans given a pathogen to make them subservient to the vampires) look cool. The vampires do not. Do vampires really need to be slimy looking airborne acrobats? No, high-flying stunts don’t make them more intimidating. The fights are stylishly choreographed but when the action dies down, it’s all too easy to zone out. Not surprisingly, the movie is visually stunning – from the dark, claustrophobic city ruled by the Church to the dry, barren landscape of Jericho.
Despite what you may assume, there isn’t a heavy or overbearing religious theme. Priest is nothing profound or cutting-edge but most audiences will probably enjoy it for what it is.