REVIEW: X-MEN: THE LAST STAND

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CAST

Patrick Stewart (American Dad)
Hugh Jackman (Swordfish)
Ian McKellen (The Hobbit)
Halle Berry (Catwoman)
Famke Janssen (The Faculty)
James Marsden (Westworld)
Rebecca Romijn (Ugly Betty)
Anna Paquin (true Blood)
Shawn Ashmore (Earthsea)
Aaron Stanford (The Hills Have Eyes)
Kelly Hu (Arrow)
Daniel Cudmore (Twilight: New Moon)
Kea Wong (Snow Day)
Kelsey Grammer (Frasier)
Vinnie Jones (Mean Machine)
Ellen Page (Juno)
Ben Foster (The Punisher)
Olivia Williams (Dollhouse)
R. Lee Emey (Full Metal Jacket)
Anthony Heald (The Silence of The Lambs)
Dania Ramierez (Heroes)
Michael Murphy (Batman Returns)
Shohreh Aghdashloo (The Adjustment Bureau)
Bill Duke (Bird on a Wire)
Eric Dane (Grey’s Anatomy)
Meiling Melançon (Rush Hour 2)
Ken Leung (Lost)
Cameron Bright (Godsend)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)
Bryce Hodgson (Izombie)

Twenty years in the past, Professor Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr meet young Jean Grey at her parents’ house to invite her to join their school, the X-Mansion. Ten years later, the industrialist father of Warren Worthington III discovers his son is a mutant as Warren tries to cut off his wings.In the present, Worthington Labs announces it has developed an inoculation to suppress the X-gene that gives mutants their abilities, and offer the “cure” to any mutant who wants it. The cure is created from the genome of a young mutant named Jimmy, who lives at the Worthington facility on Alcatraz Island. While some mutants are interested in the cure, including the X-Men’s Rogue, many others are horrified by the announcement. Lehnsherr re-establishes his Brotherhood of Mutants with those who oppose the cure, warning his followers that the cure will be forcefully used to exterminate the mutant race.With help from Pyro, Lehnsherr recruits Callisto and several other mutants. They attack the mobile prison holding Mystique to free her, also freeing Juggernaut and Multiple Man. Mystique saves Lehnsherr by taking a shot of the mutant cure aimed at him, rendering her human. Hateful of humans, Lehnsherr abandons Mystique, much to her shock. Meanwhile, Scott Summers, still distraught over the loss of his fiancée, Jean Grey, drives to her resting location at Alkali Lake. Jean appears to Summers but, as the two kiss, Jean kills him. Sensing trouble, Xavier sends Logan and Storm to investigate. When they arrive, they find only telekinetically floating rocks, Summers’ glasses, and an unconscious Jean.When they return to the X-Mansion, Xavier explains to Logan that when Jean sacrificed herself, she also freed the “Phoenix”, a dark and powerful alternate personality which Xavier had telepathically repressed, fearing the Phoenix’s destructive potential. Logan is disgusted to learn of this psychic tampering with Jean’s mind but, once she awakens, he discovers that she killed Summers and is not the Jean Grey he once knew. The Phoenix emerges, knocks out Logan, and escapes to her childhood home.Lehnsherr learns of Jean’s resurrection through Callisto, and the X-Men arrive at the Grey home at the same time as the Brotherhood. Lehnsherr and Xavier go in alone, and both vie for Jean’s loyalty until the Phoenix resurfaces. She destroys the house and disintegrates Xavier before leaving with Lehnsherr. The Brotherhood decides to strike Worthington Labs, and the government sends multiple teams to attack the Brotherhood’s base in the forest, with information gained from Mystique, furious over Lehnsherr’s betrayal. However, the life forms in the camp are all copies of Multiple Man, and Lehnsherr uses his powers to move the Golden Gate Bridge so he and his army can get to Alcatraz and facilitate the attack on Worthington Labs. The remaining X-Men confront the Brotherhood, despite being significantly outnumbered, and arrive just as the military troops who thus far have been neutralizing the attacking mutants are overwhelmed by the Brotherhood.During the fight, Kitty Pryde saves Jimmy from Juggernaut, who had been sent to kill him. Logan has Colossus throw him at Lehnsherr and distract him long enough for Hank McCoy to inject Lehnsherr with the “cure” and thus nullify his powers. Army reinforcements arrive and shoot at Jean just as Logan had calmed her down. The Phoenix is awakened by the attack and disintegrates the troops in retaliation. The Phoenix then begins to destroy Alcatraz and anyone within range of her powers. Logan realizes that only he can stop the Phoenix due to his healing factor. When Logan approaches her, Jean momentarily gains control and begs him to save her. Logan fatally stabs Jean, destroying the Phoenix, but mourns for her death.Sometime later, mutant rights are finally obtained and Xavier’s school is still operating with Storm as headmistress. The President of the United States appoints McCoy as ambassador to the United Nations. Rogue reveals to Bobby Drake that she has taken the cure, much to his disappointment. Meanwhile, Lehnsherr sits alone at a chessboard in a San Francisco park. As he gestures toward a metal chess piece, it wobbles slightly, indicating his powers to be returning and the “cure” to be temporary. In a post-credits scene, Moira MacTaggert checks on a comatose patient who greets her with Xavier’s voice, leaving her startled.Not the greatest of the X-Men films, but not too bad nonetheless. I enjoyed it, some of the action set pieces are very impressive.

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REVIEW: 30 DAYS OF NIGHT

CAST

Josh Hartnett (The Faculty)
Melissa George (Triangle)
Danny Huston (The Kingdom)
Ben Foster (The Punisher)
Mark Boone Junior (Batman Begins)
Mark Rendall (Open House)
Amber Sainsbury (Hex)
Manu Bennett (Arrow)
Megan Franich (Alpha Planet)
Joel Tobeck (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Elizabeth Hawthorne (Filthy Rich)
Nathaniel Lees (Power Rangers Jungle Fury)
Craig Hall (King Kong)
Andrew Stehlin (10, 000 BC)
John Rawls (The Blue Rose)
Jared Turner (The Almighty Johnsons)
Kelson Henderson (Power Rangers n inja Steel)
Pua Magasiva (Power Rangers Ninja Storm)
Kate Elliott (Power Rangers Samurai)

The town of Barrow, Alaska is preparing for its annual “30 Days of Night”, a period during the winter when there is a month-long polar night. As the town gets ready, a stranger (Ben Foster) rows ashore from a large ship and sabotages the town’s communications and transport to the outside world. Barrow’s sheriff, Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnett) investigates and also learns that his estranged wife, Stella (Melissa George), missed the last plane and must stay the 30 days. That night, a coven of feral vampires, led by Marlow (Danny Huston), attack and slaughter most of the townspeople, forcing Eben, Stella, Eben’s younger brother Jake (Mark Rendall), and several other survivors to take shelter in a boarded-up house with a hidden attic. Marlow finds the stranger locked up in the station. The stranger believed Marlow was going to turn him into a vampire. Marlow thanks him for doing what he asked, and then snaps his neck. Marlow ironically comments to his fellow vampires: “The things they believe.”Eighteen days later, when a blizzard hits, the group uses the whiteout to go to the general store for supplies, but are stranded after it ends. While the group heads for the station, Eben creates a diversion by having the vampires chase him to his grandmother’s house, where he uses one of her ultraviolet lights to burn the face of Marlow’s lover, Iris (Megan Franich), so badly that Marlow is forced to kill her. As he escapes, the town snow plow operator, Beau (Mark Boone Junior), creates another distraction with his tractor, killing many of the vampires, before trying to blow himself up; when he fails, Marlow crushes his head. Eben arrives at the station, where he is then forced to kill Carter (Nathaniel Lees), who has been bitten and is turning into a vampire.Two weeks later, Stella and Eben see the deputy, Billy (Manu Bennett), signaling them with a flashlight and bring him back to the station, after finding out he killed his family to save them from a more painful death. The trio find the others have made for the utilidor, a power and sewage treatment station that still has power, and head over there but are separated after Stella saves Gail Robbins (Rachel Maitland-Smith), a young girl whose family was slaughtered by a vampire named Zurial (John Rawls) who was stalking her. Eben and Billy make it to the utilidor but are attacked by Arvin (Andrew Stehlin), who bites Billy; Billy knocks Arvin into the heavy-duty shredder, before being killed by Eben because he is starting to turn.As the month comes to an end, with the sun due to rise, the vampires start to burn down the town to destroy evidence of their presence, and prevent any survivors from telling the world what happened. Realizing Stella is trapped and that he cannot beat the vampires in his current state, Eben turns himself into a vampire by injecting himself with Billy’s infected blood. He confronts Marlow, and they get into a vicious fight, before Marlow is finally killed by having a hole punched through his head, causing the remaining vampires to flee. Knowing he will die soon, Eben and Stella go off to watch the sunrise together, sharing one last kiss. As the sun comes up, Eben’s body burns to ash in Stella’s arms, while she stares at the sky, coming to grips with what has happened.For a movie that takes place almost completely in the dark, 30 Days Of Night is well shot. The snowbound settings and claustrophobic interiors instantly conjure up memories of Carpenter’s The Thing but the similarities are really only superficial.

REVIEW: THE MECHANIC

CAST

Jason Statham (The Bank Job)
Ben Foster (The Punisher)
Donald Sutherland (The Hunger Games)
Tony Goldwyn (Ghost)
Jeff Chase (Looper)
Mini Anden (Chuck)

Arthur Bishop, working as a “mechanic” (mafia slang for hitman), sneaks into the lavish home of a Colombian Drug Cartel leader and drowns him in his own pool. Upon returning home to Louisiana, he meets with friend and mentor Harry McKenna, who pays Bishop for his work. Bishop is given a new assignment: kill Harry. Bishop’s employer confirms by phone that the contract is correct, whereupon he requests a face-to-face meeting. Dean tells him about a failed mission in South Africa, in which agency assassins were killed. Dean says that only himself and Harry knew the details of the mission, and that Harry had been paid for the contract details. Reluctantly Bishop kills Harry with the latter’s own gun and makes it look like a carjacking. At his funeral, Bishop meets Harry’s reckless son Steve. Bishop stops Steve from trying to kill a would-be carjacker in a misguided attempt at cathartic vengeance. Steve convinces Bishop to train him as a mechanic. Adopting a chihuahua, he instructs Steve to take the dog with him to a coffee shop each day at the same time. As Steve settles into a routine, Bishop escalates training, taking him to observe a contract killing.The target is a mechanic for another agency named Burke, who frequents the same coffee shop. Burke’s only weaknesses are that he is interested in young men and small dogs. Burke makes his move on Steve and invites him out for drinks. Bishop instructs Steve to slip a large dose of Rohypnol into Burke’s drink to cause an overdose. Steve ignores the instructions and goes with Burke to his apartment. When Burke begins to undress, Steve attempts to strangle him with a belt as he had seen Bishop do on a former assignment. Burke fights back, using his size advantage and experience, but Steve manages to kill Burke after much effort and a lengthy fight. Dean expresses his disapproval of Bishop involving Steve, and that violated the rules of the contract arrangement, but Bishop says that Harry and his arrangement was for price only, and Harry left the details up to Bishop.Bishop’s next contract is to kill Christian Cult leader Andrew Vaughn. They plan to inject their victim with adrenaline to simulate a heart attack, for which the paramedics would administer a fatal dose of epinephrine. While Bishop and Steve are preparing for the hit, Vaughn’s doctor arrives, and he sets Vaughn up with an IV of ketamine, which will inhibit the epinephrine’s effects. The hit men decide to suffocate him instead, but are discovered after killing Vaughn and are forced into a shootout with the guards; they slip away and fly home separately.At the airport, Bishop sees a supposed victim of the mission that Harry allegedly sold out. He confronts the other mechanic, who tells Bishop that he was paid by Dean to kill the other mechanics in South Africa and fake his death so that Dean could engineer the failed mission to cover up his own shady dealings; he also reveals that Dean framed Harry and that he tricked Bishop into killing his friend. The mechanic then attempts to kill Bishop and after a struggle between the two professionals, Bishop ends up killing him. Bishop is later ambushed by a hit squad: after killing them, he discovers that Dean was behind the hit. Bishop goes home to call Steve, only to find that Steve has been ambushed. Bishop directs Steve to a hidden gun, which Steve uses to kill his attackers. Steve gathers supplies for their new mission while he plots how to get to Dean. In the process he finds his father’s gun and realizes that Bishop killed Harry.Bishop and Steve kill Dean in an ambush: on the way back, Bishop notices Steve carrying Harry’s gun. When they stop for gas, Steve floods the ground with fuel while pretending to fill the tank. He walks a safe distance and shoots the gas, blowing up the truck with Bishop still inside. Steve returns to the house and performs two actions that Bishop told him not to do: playing a record on the turntable, and taking the 1966 Jaguar E-Type. As he is driving away, Steve finds a note on the passenger seat: “Steve, if you’re reading this, then you’re dead!” Moments later, the car explodes, killing him; at the same time, Bishop’s house also explodes. Back at the gas station, a security video reveals that Bishop had escaped from the truck, seconds before the explosion. Bishop gets into a spare truck and drives away.The Mechanic is actually really entertaining. It’s packed to the brim with explosions, bloody headshots, broken limbs, and even a hefty and destructive car chase sequence.  Overall, The Mechanic is dark, gritty, bloody, and just a hell of a lot of fun

REVIEW: CONTRABAND

 

CAST

Mark Wahlberg (Ted)
Kate Beckinsale (Underworld)
Ben Foster (The Punisher)
Giovanni Ribisi (Avatar)
Caleb Landry Jones (X-Men: First Class)
Lukas Haas (Inception)
Diego Luna (Milk)
J.K. Simmons (Whiplash)

Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) is an ex-smuggler who now has a peaceful life with his wife, Kate (Kate Beckinsale), and their two sons in New Orleans. They learn that Kate’s brother Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) was smuggling drugs, but dropped them into the Mississippi River during a surprise inspection by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Andy’s boss, mobster Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi), threatens to kill Chris’ family if Andy doesn’t pay him back $700,000. Chris decides to raise the money by running contraband, working with his former smuggling partner, Sebastian Abney (Ben Foster), who now owns a legitimate construction company. Promising Kate he will not run drugs, Chris joins a cargo ship, planning to buy $10,000,000 in fake bills in Panama and smuggle them into the U.S. He is joined by Andy, his good friend Danny Raymer (Lukas Haas), and gets help from crew mates. After Briggs broke into Chris’ house and intimidated his wife and kids, Kate moves into Sebastian’s house for safety.

In Panama, Chris discovers that the only one who can provide high quality fake bills is crime lord Gonzalo (Diego Luna). Leaving Andy in the van with the money for the fake bills, Chris meets with Gonzalo to negotiate. Briggs calls Andy, threatens to kill one of Chris’ sons and forces him to take the money and buy cocaine. With the money gone, Chris and Danny agree to help Gonzalo rob an armored car in exchange for the fake bills. After a shootout which kill Gonzalo’s group along with numerous police and security officers, they successfully steals a Jackson Pollock painting that resembles a splattered tarp. Chris and Danny barely make it back to the ship with the fake bills and the painting. They drive the van with contraband into a container, which is loaded onto their cargo ship. Chris hits and berates Andy for using the money to buy cocaine, but apologizes when Andy explains the reason.

It is revealed that Sebastian is working with Briggs, and he desperately needs money to pay gangster Jim Church (David O’Hara). Sebastian calls Chris and learns that Chris plans to get rid of the cocaine Andy bought. Sebastian instructs Briggs to threaten Kate. Through Kate, Briggs warns Chris not to dump the cocaine. Chris realizes that Sebastian has betrayed him. Sebastian contacts the cargo ship’s Captain Camp (J. K. Simmons), with whom he has a partnership. He tells Camp of Chris’ smuggled contraband, and promises him a share if he secures it. Unable to get Chris to give up the contraband, Camp calls U.S. Customs to inspect the ship in New Orleans. The Customs agents find the container with Chris’ van, which is empty except for the paint splattered tarp, which they ignore.

Once Chris is on shore, Briggs and his thugs demand the drug package. Chris takes Briggs to Camp’s house, having made a duplicate key while on the ship, and knowingly activates the security system. Chris opens Camp’s carpet cleaner and retrieves the cocaine from it. While Briggs and his gang sit in Camp’s living room with the cocaine, Chris sneaks out. Camp awakens to the noise and comes into the living room as the police arrive. Both Briggs’s group and Camp are arrested for possession of the cocaine.

Warned by Chris, Kate leave Sebastian’s house. When she goes back to retrieve some personal items, Sebastian gets angry with her and accidentally pushes her against a bathtub. Thinking she is dead, he dumps her (unconscious) body in a yet to be poured foundation at one of his construction sites. Chris goes to Sebastian’s construction site and manages to locate and save Kate by calling her cellphone. Sebastian is arrested and sent to prison, where he is greeted by a lynch mob.

Danny retrieves the fake bills, which were dumped into the Mississippi River by Chris before docking in New Orleans. At a U.S. Customs auction, Andy buys the escape van earlier confiscated from the cargo ship, and finds the painting still in it. Church pays Chris $3 million for the fake currency and asks about the missing Jackson Pollock. Chris learns the painting can be fenced for over $20 million on the black market. The film ends with Chris, Kate, Andy and the kids beginning a new life in a waterfront house.

Contraband is a good action/suspense smuggler flick, that’s fast pace helps overlook some of it’s weaknesses. If you like Mark Wahlberg’s previous films then you’ll be in the right frame of mind to enjoy this.

REVIEW: PHONE BOOTH

CAST
Colin Farrell (Minority Report)
Kiefer Sutherland (Pompeii)
Forest Whitaker (Panic Room)
Radha Mitchell (Pitch Black)
Katie Holmes (Batman Begins)
Richard T. Jones (Terminator: TSCC)
Ben Foster (The Punisher)
Stu Shepard (Colin Farrell) is an arrogant New York City publicist who has been courting a woman named Pam (Katie Holmes) behind his wife Kelly (Radha Mitchell). He uses the last remaining public phone booth in the city to contact Pam. During the call, he is interrupted by a pizza delivery man, who attempts to deliver a free pizza to him, but Stu rudely turns him away by insulting his weight. As soon as Stu completes his call to Pam, the phone rings. Stu answers, to find that The Caller, who knows his name, warns him not to leave the booth, and says he will say hello to Pam for him. He also says he will call Kelly, leaving Stu panicked.
The caller tells Stu that he has tested two previous individuals who have done wrong deeds in a similar manner (one was a pedophile, the other was a company insider who cashed out his stock options before the share price collapsed), giving each a chance to reveal the truth to those they wronged, but in both cases, neither agreed and were killed. To demonstrate the threat, the caller fires a suppressed sniper rifle at a toy robot sold by a nearby vendor; the damage is unseen by anyone but Stu, the caller, and the vendor. The caller demands that Stu confess his feelings for Pam to both Kelly and Pam to avoid being killed. The caller contacts Pam, and puts her on line with Stu, who reveals that he is married. The caller then hangs up, telling Stu to call Kelly himself.
As Stu hesitates, the booth is approached by three prostitutes demanding to use the phone. Stu refuses to leave, having been warned by the caller to stay in the booth and not reveal the situation. Leon (John Enos III), the prostitutes’ pimp, joins his charges, smashes the side of the booth, grabs at Stu in a headlock and starts punching him. The caller offers to “make him stop” and asks if Stu can hear him, which Stu just answers positively, causing the caller to misunderstand Stu and shoot Leon. Leon staggers away before collapsing dead in the street. The prostitutes immediately blame Stu, making a scene over Leon’s body, accusing him of having a gun as the police and news crews converge on the location.
Police Captain Ed Ramey (Forest Whitaker), already suspecting Stu of being the killer, seals off the streets with police roadblocks and starts trying to negotiate to get him to leave the booth, but Stu refuses, telling the caller that there is no way they can incriminate him; the caller proves him wrong, calling his attention to a handgun that was planted in the roof of the phone booth. Both Kelly and Pam soon arrive on the scene. The caller demands that Stu tell Kelly the truth, which he does. The caller then orders Stu to choose between Kelly and Pam, and the woman he does not choose will be killed. While on the phone with the caller, Stu secretly uses his cell phone to call Kelly, allowing her to overhear his conversation with the caller. She, in turn, quietly informs Captain Ramey of this. Meanwhile, Stu continues to confess to everyone that his whole life is a lie, to make himself look more important than he really is or even feels. Stu’s confession provides sufficient distraction to allow the police to trace the payphone call to a nearby building, and Ramey uses coded messages to inform Stu of this. Stu warns the caller that the police are on the way, and the caller replies that if he is caught, then he will kill Kelly. Panicked, Stu grabs the handgun and leaves the booth, screaming for the sniper to kill him instead of Kelly. The police fire upon Stu, while a smaller force breaks into the room that the caller was tracked to, only to find the gun and a man’s corpse.
Stu regains consciousness to find the police fired only rubber bullets at him, stunning but not harming him. Stu and Kelly happily reunite. As the police bring down the body, Stu identifies it as the pizza delivery man from earlier. Stu gets medical treatment at a local ambulance; as he does, a man with a briefcase (Kiefer Sutherland) passes by and says that he regrets killing the pizza deliverer and warns Stu that if his new-found honesty does not last, he will be hearing from him again. The man disappears into the crowd with Stu unable to call out due to being sedated by the paramedics. As he does, someone else is being called from that same line. We only hear him say, “Hello?”.
This is a great movie, excellently written and very emotional. Colin Farrell’s desperation is great, and he has some funny lines. Kiefer Sutherland as the caller is great too, he’s really got the skills for this film and he shines as the uncompromising voice who’s really out to get Stu.

REVIEW: ALPHA DOG

CAST

Emile Hirsch (Speed Racer)
Justin Timberlake (The Social Network)
Ben Foster (The Punisher)
Shawn Hatosy (The Faculty)
Anton Yelchin (Star Trek)
Sharon Stone (Total Recall)
Bruce Willis (Die Hard)
Chris Marquette (Freddy vs Jason)
Dominique Swain (Praire Fever)
Olivia Wilde (Cowboys & Aliens)
Amanda Seyfried (Ted 2)
Vincent Kartheiser (Angel)
Lukas Haas (Mars Attacks)
Heather Wahlquist (John Q)
Harry Dean Stanton (Avengers Assemble)
Joshua Alba (Unrest)
Amber Heard (Zombieland)

Johnny Truelove is a young marijuana dealer living in Southern California. His father, Sonny, supplies him with marijuana, which Johnny distributes to his gang of friends, including Jake Mazursky, who owes Johnny a $1,200 drug debt. Mazursky makes a failed attempt at asking his father, Butch, and stepmother Olivia for the money. Meanwhile, Butch and Olivia are dealing with their rebellious teenage son Zack- Jake’s half-brother. A fight breaks out between Jake and Johnny when Jake tries to pay Johnny only part of his debt. After back and forth retaliation, Johnny and his two henchmen, Frankie Ballenbacher and Tiko Martinez, go to confront Jake in person, but when they go to his house he is nowhere to be found. As they leave, they find Zack walking and decide to kidnap him with the intent of holding onto him until Jake pays his debt.
Wanting a break from his home life, Zack makes no effort to escape. Johnny pawns Zack off on Frankie, who offers him a chance to escape, but Zack declines the offer, not wanting to cause any trouble for his brother. Zack stays with Frankie at his father’s house, and the two strike up an unlikely friendship. The next day, he ingratiates himself with Frankie’s friends, including Keith Stratten and Julie, the youngest member of the group. A number of friends of the gang learn of Zack’s kidnapping, though Susan is the only one who seems concerned. Frankie grows nervous when Johnny tells him they could be in serious trouble for the kidnapping, and hypothetically offers him $2,500 to murder Zack. Frankie furiously declines and Johnny claims it was just a joke. Instead, Johnny agrees to Frankie’s plan to pay Zack to keep his mouth shut. However, after a threatening phone call from Jake, and his lawyer who reveals that he could face life in prison for kidnapping, he decides the risk of ending up dead or in prison is too great to let Zack go. Johnny calls Elvis Schmidt and offers to erase his drug debt if he kills Zack. Frankie and his friends still believe Zack will be returning home at the end of the night and throw a raucous going away party. Zack has a good time at the party and later goes skinny-dipping with Julie and her friend Alma in the pool, which leads to a three-some. After the party, Julie gives Zack her number and Alma gives him a good-bye kiss on the cheek.
Elvis arrives at the hotel where Zack is waiting to be picked up, and Frankie and Elvis begin to argue when Elvis reveals that Johnny has sent him there to kill Zack. Frankie ends up leaving, and Elvis takes Keith to dig a grave. Frankie offers Zack a final opportunity to escape, but believing that he is now part of the group and will be returning home soon, Zack prefers to wait at the hotel for Elvis to return. Meanwhile, Sonny, Cosmo (Johnny’s godfather), and Johnny’s lawyer confront Johnny, who refuses to call off the hit. Elvis and Keith return to the hotel, and Frankie and Elvis go outside to talk. Frankie, reluctant because of the friendship he has formed with Zack, finally relents when Elvis tells him they could face life in prison if Zack tells someone what happened.
Frankie, Elvis, Zack, and Keith arrive at the grave site. Zack is not aware of what’s going on and grows suspicious when a deeply saddened Keith tells Frankie he can’t go through with it, and goes to wait in the car after giving Zack a goodbye hug. Zack sees the grave and begins to break down, begging Frankie and Elvis to let him go. Frankie tells Elvis they shouldn’t go through with it, but Elvis is keen on the job he’s been given. Frankie calms Zack down, and ties him up with duct tape. He is surprised when Elvis knocks Zack into the grave with a shovel, and shoots him multiple times with an automatic Tec 9, killing him.
Zack’s body is found three days later. The epilogue shows the aftermath of the crime: Olivia, now suffering from obesity and depression, is interviewed, and talks candidly about her failed suicide attempts and the loss that she has experienced from her son’s death. Susan angrily confronts Frankie over Zack’s death and goes to the authorities. Elvis is caught while trying to secure a ride out of L.A. Johnny flees the city and arrives at the house of old classmate Buzz Fecske, who drives him back to his godfather Cosmo’s house, where he enters and is not seen again. Tiko, Keith and Frankie are arrested. After being convicted, they all serve their respective sentences: Tiko serves nine years in prison for kidnapping; Keith serves time at a juvenile facility until the age of 25 for digging Zack’s grave; Frankie serves seven years to life for kidnapping and second-degree murder; and Elvis is put on death row for murdering Zack. Johnny, however, is nowhere to be found. The interviewer asks Sonny how Johnny was able to escape authorities for four years without help, but Sonny assures him that he doesn’t know where Johnny is. In 2005, after over five years of being on the America’s most wanted list, Johnny is finally found and arrested in Paraguay. Text informs the audience that Johnny is in California awaiting trial, and, if proven guilty, faces the death penalty.
Alpha Dog is based on the real life story of LA drug dealer Jesse James Hollywood who may just have a sillier name than his onscreen counterpart.  The story jumps around a lot but there are some very well filmed and well acted moments that make this better than just another LA crime film.

REVIEW: THE PUNISHER (2004)

 CAST

Thomas Jane (Deep Blue Sea)
John Travolta (The Taking of Pelham 123)
Will Patton (November Man)
Roy Schneider (Seaquest)
Laura Harring (Exit To Eden)
Ben Foster (X-Men 3)
Rebecca Romijn (Ugly Betty)
John Pinette (Alf)
Samantha Mathis (Little Women)
Eddie Jemison (Izombie)
Kevin Nash (John Wick)
Marc Macauley (Swamp Thing: The Series)

Way back when a character named Frank Castle made his first appearance in the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man #129. Castle’s family was mowed down by the mob in New York City and he took it upon himself to ‘punish’ all criminals from then on and he became…insert dramatic pause here… The Punisher. The character developed a solid cult following with guest appearances in later issues of Spider-Man as well as Daredevil and he was eventually given his own five issue mini series by Steven Grant and Mike Zeck in the eighties. A regular series followed a few years after that as well as a spin off series or two and a goofy straight to video film starring Dolph Lundgren. Since then series’ have been cancelled, then rejuvenated and since injecting the character with some much needed fresh blood in the form of Preacher team Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, the comics seem to be back on track and thus, a new R-Rated big screen adaptation is born.

In this incarnation, Frank Castle (Thomas Jane – no relation to yours truly) is an undercover agent finishing his last job before he and his lovely wife and son are to go off to London to live happily ever after. When one of the hoods gets shot up and dies in the sting, he Castle finds out the hard way that he was the son of a prominent businessman, Howard Saint (John Travolta). Saint doesn’t take too kindly to the death of his son and decides to pay Castle back in spades by having his entire family killed during a party on the beach at his parent’s house.

His family’s death sends Castle into a downward spiral – he starts drinking heavily and becomes a man obsessed with vengeance. He uses his special forces training to trick out some weapons and build himself a small arsenal, which will come in handy when he begins to wage his one-man war on crime. He moves into a run down apartment and befriends three of the tenants there, then proceeds to take Saint and his small army of thugs down a few pegs, proving that revenge truly is a dish best served cold.

There aren’t a whole lot of plot twists or deep, original characters in The Punisher. There aren’t any intricate, meaningful discussions on the reasons we’re all on this Earth and it doesn’t really break any new ground in any way whatsoever. What it is though, is pure, unabashed entertainment.

Despite some very obvious moments where the comic strays from the source material  the character does stay reasonably true to his comic book roots. Jane does a great job as a tough man of few words – playing the strong and silent type with a bit of style and a whole lot of cool. Travolta does a nice job as the heavy, going over the top as he’s prone to do in a few scenes that make him look and sound like a walking talking comic book villain. Throw in some fun cameos and bit parts for the lovely and talented Rebecca Romijn-Stamos (X-Men), Roy Scheider (Jaws), and even professional wrestler Kevin Nash and you’ve got a good cast that do a good job with the unashamedly popcorn material they have to work with.

Castle’s mission of vengeance is more or less a way to tie together a few different action set pieces in the film, giving the character a reason to kill. Director John Hensleigh ensures that the movie trucks along at a quick pace and that the action scenes are the focal point of the film, but still manages to work a simple but effective story into the shoot-outs and explosions we all want to see.