REVIEW: GUESS WHO

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CAST

Bernie Mac (Bad Santa)
Ashton Kutcher (Two and a Half Men)
Zoe Saldana (Avatar)
Judith Scott (Dexter)
Sherri Shepherd (How I Met Your Mother)
Jessica Cauffiel (White Chicks)
Niecy Nash (Scream Queens)
Mike Epps (The Hangover)
Julia Ling (Chuck)

Theresa Jones (Zoe Saldana) takes her boyfriend, Simon Green (Ashton Kutcher) home to meet her parents on the occasion of her parents’ 25th wedding anniversary, planning to reveal that they are engaged. However, what Theresa has also left out is that Simon is white. Her father, Percy (Bernie Mac), dislikes Simon almost immediately because of his race. Wishing to impress Percy, Simon lies to him about being a NASCAR pit driver for Jeff Gordon, not realizing that Percy is one of his biggest fans. After catching Theresa and Simon in a compromising position, Percy tries to force Simon into a hotel, but all the hotels in town are booked. Instead, he allows Simon to sleep in his basement on the couch, where Percy also sleeps.
With the help of his personal assistant Reggie (Ronreaco Lee), Percy tries to dig up as much dirt on Simon as he can as well as creating the ideal black boyfriend for Theresa instead of revealing her boyfriend is white. He manages to get Simon to reveal that he lied about being a NASCAR driver and also that he needs a $50,000 loan. Simon discovers Percy’s lies just as Reggie reveals that Simon quit his job. Immediately, Percy goes to tell his daughter this new information, however Simon claims he wasn’t fired and instead quit. Angry that he didn’t tell her the truth, Theresa leaves while Percy’s snooping and plagiarism of his vows temporarily strains his relationship with his wife, Marilyn (Judith Scott).
The next morning Percy and Simon find the women to apologize, but while Marilyn and Percy reconcile, Simon and Theresa break up for good and he leaves. On the day of his anniversary, Theresa tells her father that she and Simon were going to get married. After wondering why a man planning to get married would quit his job, Percy realizes that Simon quit his job due to his boss’ disapproval of interracial relationships. Percy goes after Simon and brings him back to Theresa where they get back together, then the festivities begin.It’s not the funniest movie I watched this year, but I quite enjoyed it. It’s more like “Meet the Parents” with the added interracial aspect than “Guess who’s coming to Dinner”. Aside from some minor racial misconceptions and some racist jokes, the movie is more about love and really quite touching in places. Although occasionally funny, not all jokes work and some just remind too much of “Meet the Parents”.  It’s a movie that’s entertaining and refreshing to watch.

REVIEW: OCEAN’S THIRTEEN

CAST
George Clooney (The Ides of march)
Brad Pitt (Troy)
Matt Damon (Green Zone)
Elliott Gould (American History X)
Al Pacino (Devils Advocate)
Don Cheadle (Iron Man 3)
Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone)
Scott Caan (Gone In 60 Seconds)
Bernie Mac (Mr. 3000)
Carl Reiner (Two and a Half Men)
Michael Mantell (Secretary)
Eddie Izzard (Hannibal)
Ellen Barkin (Brooklyn’s Finest)
Noureen DeWulf (Anger Managment)
Julian Sands (Gotham)
Vincent Cassel (Black Swan)
Andy Garcia (The Unsaid)
Oprah Winfrey (The Color Purple)
Reuben Tishkoff is conned by Willy Bank, his former business partner, by being forced to sign over the ownership rights of the new hotel-casino they were building together, “The Bank”. Reuben suffers a heart attack and becomes bedridden. Daniel Ocean offers Bank a chance to set things right, given his long history in Las Vegas and the fact that he “shook hands with Sinatra,” though Bank refuses. To avenge Reuben, he gathers his partners-in-crime and plans to ruin Bank on the opening night of the hotel.
First, they plan to prevent “The Bank” from winning the prestigious Five Diamond Award, which all of Bank’s previous hotels have won. Saul Bloom poses as the reviewer of the board, while the real reviewer is treated horribly during his stay by Ocean’s associates and the staff on their payroll. Next, they plan to rig the casino’s slot machines and games to force a payout of more than $500 million in winnings, forcing Bank to cede control of the casino to the board. This requires defeating “The Greco Player Tracker,” a state-of-the-art artificial intelligence system that ensures that all winnings are legitimate by measuring the players’ biometric responses for authenticity. They trick Bank into carrying a cell phone with a magnetron to disrupt the Greco. Ocean’s team acquires one of the giant drills used to bore the Channel Tunnel to simulate an earthquake under the hotel on opening night to ensure that the Greco shuts down. Rusty poses as a seismologist to tell Bank that an earthquake evacuation code is necessary for his new hotel, to which Bank reluctantly agrees to put in. When the team tries to drill towards The Bank, however, the drill breaks, forcing them to approach Terry Benedict, their previous antagonist, to fund the purchase of a second drill. As Benedict has a grudge against Bank, he offers Ocean the funds only if they also steal four necklaces Bank bought representing the four Five Diamond Awards, worth some $250 million, now on display in a secured case at the top of the hotel.
On opening night, FBI agents have been informed that machines have been rigged by Livingston Dell, and have identified him. This was intended, resulting in the card-shuffling machines being replaced by Roman Nagel, as Livingston was unable to effectively rig them. Basher distracts Bank long enough to allow Virgil and Turk Malloy to change the group’s FBI records, including their names and appearances, to prevent being identified alongside Livingston. Linus Caldwell seduces Bank’s assistant to gain access to the display and switch the diamonds with fakes. He is interrupted by the lead FBI agent, who explains the diamond theft to Bank’s assistant. Linus is arrested, but as they exit in the elevator, the lead agent is revealed to be his father, Robert ‘Bobby’ Caldwell, who is in on Ocean’s plan. As they exit to the roof of the hotel for extraction via helicopter, they are caught by François “The Night Fox” Toulour, whom Benedict had ordered to intercept the diamonds. Linus gives the diamonds to Toulour, who escapes by parachuting off the hotel. However, upon Toulour’s exit, Linus, Bobby, and Basher extract the entire display case of the real diamonds from the hotel via the helicopter as Ocean had already been aware of Toulour’s presence in the hotel.
The plan continues as expected. Virgil and Turk Malloy use the drill to simulate the earthquake and, with “The Greco” disrupted via the magnetron in Bank’s phone, and guests leaving the hotel with their massive winnings because of the hotel’s new earthquake evacuation protocol, Bank realizes his ruin. As the guests evacuate the hotel outside, Bank sees the helicopter flying off with the diamonds. So does Toulour, who discovers that he holds only the fakes. Ocean lets Bank know that they did everything for Reuben. Bank cannot get revenge as he cannot prove that Ocean did anything illegal and all of Bank’s connections like Ocean better than Bank himself. The group uses the money they made off with to buy property north of the Las Vegas Strip for Reuben. To punish Benedict for attempting to steal the diamonds, Ocean donates his $72 million portion of the take to charity, forcing Benedict to publicly admit his philanthropy via television appearances. As the group disperses, Rusty ensures that the real Five Diamond reviewer, who suffered numerous discomforts during his stay at the hotel, is compensated by allowing him to win the jackpot on a rigged slot machine at the airport.
Silly but suave and a fine evening’s entertainment, just like the first two in this trilogy

REVIEW: OCEAN’S TWELVE

CAST
George Clooney (The Ides of march)
Brad Pitt (Troy)
Julia Roberts (Mirror, Mirror)
Catherine Zeta Jones (Red 2)
Andy Garcia (The Unsaid)
Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone)
Scott Caan (Gone In 60 Seconds)
Bernie Mac (Mr. 3000)
Jared Harris (Sherlock Holmes 2)
Matt Damon (Green Zone)
Don Cheadle (Iron Man 3)
Carl Reiner (Two and a Half Men)
Elliott Gould (American History X)
Robbie Coltrane (From Hell)
Vincent Cassel (Black Swan)
Eddie Izzard (Hannibal)
Albert Finney (Bif Fish)
Topher Grace (Traffic)
Bruce Willis (Cop Out)
Terry Benedict (Andy García) locates all eleven members of Danny Ocean’s (George Clooney) gang, demanding they return the $160 million they stole from his casinos plus $38 million interest. Short by half, the group schemes to stage another heist in Europe to avoid problems with United States authorities. They are tipped off by an informant named Matsui (Robbie Coltrane) about the location of the first stock certificate ever. After a complex series of schemes they find the document has already been stolen by “The Night Fox”, another master thief. Europol Detective Isabel Lahiri (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is called in to investigate the theft and realizes that her talking earlier about a particular burglary with Rusty (Brad Pitt) during their relationship, would have given Rusty the idea of how to solve the complication the gang would have come up against. Surprising the group at their accommodation, she warns them they cannot beat the Night Fox or his mentor, the mysterious master-thief “LeMarc”, both of whom excel in practicing the “long-con”. She has been hunting both for years.
Danny and his gang discover the Night Fox is Baron François Toulour (Vincent Cassel), a wealthy businessman who has a mansion on Lake Como. Toulour invites Danny to his mansion and reveals that he had hired Matsui to inform the gang about the certificate in order to arrange the meeting with Danny. Toulour is upset that LeMarc did not describe him as the best thief in the world, and challenges Danny to steal the Fabergé Imperial Coronation Egg. If Danny and his gang win, Toulour will pay off the debt to Benedict.
Danny and his gang begin to plan an elaborate heist to swap the egg for a holographic recreation, but the engineer hired by the group accidentally tips off Lahiri to their presence, and she captures most of the gang on their first attempt. Linus (Matt Damon) comes up with a second plan involving Danny’s wife Tess (Julia Roberts) posing as a pregnant Julia Roberts in order to get close to the Egg and swap it. They are foiled by Lahiri, and the rest of the group are captured. Lahiri is told that they are to be extradited to the United States. Linus is chosen first to be interrogated by the FBI agent (Cherry Jones) assigned to collect them. It turns out that she is his mother, who organises the release of the whole gang. She points out to Lahiri that she will face only retribution for her forging a signature on a Europol form. Some time later, Danny and Tess return to Toulour’s estate where he reveals his glee at their failure. Toulour claims to have stolen the egg at night using his agility and Capoeira skills to evade the heavy security. Toulour’s celebration is short-lived when Danny reveals that his group stole the egg while it was in transit to the museum and Toulour realises they were tipped off by LeMarc. A flashback reveals that Danny and Rusty had met LeMarc earlier when he revealed his confidence trick intended to humiliate Toulour, and at the same time, to restore to himself the Fabergé egg that he had stolen years ago and had returned following his wife’s wishes. Toulour is forced to admit Danny won the bet and gives him the money for the debt. They pay back Benedict and promise not to perform any more heists in his casinos—even as Toulour himself is in the background spying on Benedict. Rusty takes Lahiri to a safe house that he claims has been lent to him by LeMarc. She is reunited with her father, who is revealed to be the man she has been pursuing for years: LeMarc (Albert Finney). The final scenes of the film, in which the primary characters enjoy a private poker session, imply that she and Rusty have re-kindled their relationship.
fun, breezey follow-up to ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ If you watch this film not expecting it to blow you away you will not be disappointed. Those people who dont like it probably don’t take it at face value.

REVIEW: OCEAN’S ELEVEN

CAST
George Clooney (The Ides of march)
Brad Pitt (Troy)
Julia Roberts (Mirror, Mirror)
Bernie Mac (Mr. 3000)
Elliott Gould (American History X)
Casey affleck (Gone Baby Gone)
Scott Caan (Gone In 60 Seconds)
Carl Reiner (Two and a Half men)
Matt Damon (Green Zone)
Andy Garcia (The Unsaid)
Robin Sachs (Galaxy Quest)
Henry Silva (Ocean’s 11)
Angie Dickinson (Ocean’s 11)
Don Cheadle (Iron Man 2)
Holly Marie Combs (Charmed)
Topher Grace (Traffic)
Charles Helford (Constantine)
Barry Watson (Boogeyman)
Shane West (A Walk To Remember)

Following release from prison, Daniel “Danny” Ocean (George Clooney) violates his parole by traveling to California to meet his partner-in-crime and friend Rusty Ryan (Brad Pitt) to propose a caper. The two go to Las Vegas to pitch the plan to wealthy friend and former casino owner Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould). The plan consists of simultaneously robbing the Bellagio, The Mirage, and the MGM Grand casinos. Reuben’s familiarity with casino security makes him very reluctant to get involved, but when he starts to think of it as a good way to get back at his rival, Terry Benedict (Andy García), who owns all three casinos, Reuben agrees to finance the operation. Because the casinos are required by the Nevada Gaming Commission to have enough cash on hand to cover all their patrons’ bets, the three predict that, on the upcoming night of a highly anticipated boxing match, the Bellagio vault will contain more than $150,000,000.
Danny and Rusty recruit eight former colleagues and criminal specialists: Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon), a young and talented pickpocket; Frank Catton (Bernie Mac), a casino worker and con man; Virgil (Casey Affleck) and Turk Malloy (Scott Caan), a pair of gifted mechanics; Livingston Dell (Eddie Jemison), an electronics and surveillance expert; Basher Tarr (Don Cheadle), an explosives expert; Saul Bloom (Carl Reiner), an elderly con man; and “The Amazing” Yen (Shaobo Qin), an accomplished acrobat. Several of the team members carry out reconnaissance at the Bellagio to learn as much as possible about the security, the routines and behaviors of the casino staff, and the building itself. Others create a precise replica of the vault with which to practice maneuvering through its formidable security systems. During this planning phase, the team discovers that Danny’s ex-wife, Tess (Julia Roberts), is Benedict’s girlfriend. Rusty urges Danny to give up on the plan, believing Danny incapable of sound judgment while Tess is involved, but Danny refuses. When the plan is put in motion, Danny goes to the Bellagio in order to be seen by Benedict, who, as expected, has him locked in a storeroom to be beaten by a bouncer called Bruiser. Bruiser, however, is a friend of Danny’s, and he allows him to leave through a ventilation shaft, to meet with his team in the vault. Linus poses as a gaming commission agent and reveals to Benedict that one of his employees, Ramon Escalante, is actually Frank Catton, an ex-con.
Linus and Frank stage a faux confrontation in Benedict’s presence so that Linus can steal the vault access codes written on a piece of paper in Benedict’s jacket. Yen is smuggled into the vault by the Malloy brothers to assist in triggering the explosive from the inside. Saul sneaks explosives into the casino vault by posing as a wealthy international arms dealer who needs especially secure safekeeping for his valuables and then pretends to have a heart attack that draws the security men’s attention away from the vault monitors, and is subsequently treated by Rusty posing as a doctor. The team activates a stolen EMP device to temporarily disrupt the casino’s electrical power, allowing them to breach the vault undetected. As Benedict attempts to restore order following the power outage, Rusty anonymously calls him on a cell phone that Danny had earlier planted in Tess’s coat. Rusty tells him that the vaults are being raided and that all the money will be destroyed if Benedict does not cooperate in loading half the money into a van waiting outside. Benedict observes video footage of the vault that confirms Rusty’s claims and complies in moving the money but orders his men to follow the van after it departs and calls a SWAT team to secure the vault and the other half of the money. The SWAT team’s arrival results in a shootout which causes the incineration of the half of the money left in the vault. After assuring Benedict that the casino is secure, the officers depart at Benedict’s insistence.
Benedict’s men following the van discover it is being driven by remote control, and that, instead of money, it contains duffel bags full of flyers advertising prostitutes. Benedict realizes that the vault video feed he had been watching was pre-recorded, as the vault floor in the footage lacked the Bellagio logo, which had only recently been installed. A flashback reveals that Danny had used the vault replica to create the fake video Benedict had seen. The rest of the team posed as S.W.A.T. officers and took all of the money in the vault when responding to Benedict’s call for police assistance. Benedict then returns to the room where he left Danny and finds him still there, apparently still being worked over by Bruiser, leaving him with no way to connect Danny to the theft. As Tess watches via security surveillance, Danny tricks Benedict into saying he would give up Tess in exchange for the money. Danny then says, “All right. I know a guy. We were in the joint together. Anybody pulls a job in the western US, he knows about it. Give me 72 hours. I’ll find out who took your money”. Benedict, humiliated, orders his men to escort Ocean off the premises and inform the police that Ocean is violating his parole by being in Las Vegas. Tess leaves Benedict and exits the hotel just in time to see Danny arrested. When he is released after serving “three to six months” for his parole violation, he is met by Rusty and Tess, and the three drive off, closely followed by Benedict’s bodyguards.
‘Ocean’s Eleven’ is a film well worth viewing more than once, if only to pick up on small, yet often vital, details missed the first time around.

12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: BAD SANTA

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CAST
Billy Bob Thornton (Eagle Eye)
Lauren Graham (Evan Almighty)
Tony Cox (Guns, Girls and Gambling)
Brett Kelly (Dead Like Me)
Lauren Tom (Futurama)
Bernie Mac (Mr. 3000)
John Ritter (Bride of Chucky)
Ajay Naidu (The Guru)
Alex Borstein (Family Guy)
Billy Gardell (Mike & Molly)
Octavia Spencer (Mom)
Ethan Phillips (Critters)
Cloris Leachman (Wonder Woman)
Willie T. Stokes (Billy Bob Thornton) and his dwarfed assistant Marcus (Tony Cox) are professional thieves. Every year, Willie disguises himself as a department store Santa Claus and Marcus disguises himself as an elf in order for both of them to rob shopping malls blind at night. Willie is an alcoholic, a sex addict, and is gradually unable to perform his Santa duties appropriately with children, much to Marcus’ dismay. When they are hired at the fictional Saguaro Square Mall in Phoenix, the vulgar remarks made by Willie shock the prudish mall manager Bob Chipeska (John Ritter), who brings it to the attention of security chief Gin Slagel (Bernie Mac).
At the mall, Willie is visited by Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly), a friendly but exceedingly naive and gullible, overweight boy who thinks Willie is really Santa. The boy is a target of taunt and torment from a skateboarding gang. At a bar, Willie meets Sue (Lauren Graham), a woman with a Santa Claus fetish, and they begin a sexual relationship. Willie is harassed by a man in the bar, but Thurman intervenes. Willie gives Thurman a ride home, then enters the boy’s house where he lives with his senile grandmother (Cloris Leachman). Thurman reveals that his mother died, and his father, Roger, is away “exploring mountains” (meaning he is actually in jail for embezzlement) until next year. Willie tricks Thurman into letting him steal from the house safe and steals a BMW owned by Thurman’s father.
Bob informs Gin that he overheard Willie having sex with a woman in a mall dressing room; Gin starts to investigate. Willie goes to his motel room and sees it being raided, causing him to take advantage of Thurman’s naivete and live in his house. The next day, Marcus gets angry at Willie for taking advantage of Thurman, stating his disapproval of Willie’s sex addiction.
Gin’s investigation of Willie includes visiting Thurman’s imprisoned father, who reveals that Willie is staying with Thurman illegally. He confronts Willie at the mall, and takes him and Marcus to a bar. There, he reveals that he has figured out their plan, blackmailing them for half of the cut to keep silent.
Willie attempts to commit suicide by inhaling vehicle exhaust fumes. He gives Thurman a letter to give to the police, confessing all his misdeeds. Willie notices Thurman’s black eye, which persuades him to make an example of the skateboarding bully. A renewed sense of purpose for Willie has him attempt to train Thurman in boxing. Enraged at Gin for blackmailing him, Marcus and his wife Lois (Lauren Tom) set up a trap for Gin, feigning needing a jump start for their vehicle from Gin’s. Lois hits Gin with the car, then Marcus kills him.
On Christmas Eve, when the heist is almost complete, Willie goes to get Thurman a pink stuffed elephant that he had wanted for Christmas. Just as he gets the elephant, Marcus reveals to Willie that he intends to kill him, fed up with his increasing carelessness. Lois tells him to hurry up and kill Willie so they can get away with the money and merchandise. But just as Marcus is about to shoot Willie, the police swarm the trio, tipped off by the letter Willie gave to Thurman. When Marcus opens fire, the police shoot at him and Willie flees. Determined to give Thurman his present, he leads the police on a chase to Thurman’s house, ignoring orders to freeze. He is repeatedly shot on Thurman’s porch, but survives.
The epilogue is told through a letter from Willie, who is in a hospital recovering. He expresses his gratitude for Thurman in giving the letter to the police and his name was cleared of unarmed robbery. Shooting an unarmed Santa embarrassed the police, and Sue is granted guardianship over Thurman and his house until Thurman’s father, Roger, is released. Willie also explains that Marcus (identified as Santa’s Little Helper) and Lois are serving time behind bars for their actions, while expressing hope Roger is wise to avoid the two. The movie ends with Thurman finally standing up to his bully by kicking him in the crotch causing him to fall to the ground. Thurman is seen riding his bike away flipping off the bully.
Bad Santa is not a film for those easily offended, however it does manage to be genuinely funny, and makes a welcome diversion for adults.

REVIEW: CHARLIES ANGELS 1 & 2

CAST

Cameron Diaz (Bad teacher)
Drew Barrymore (Poison Ivy)
Lucy Liu (Kill BIll)
Bill Murray (Groundhog Day)
Sam Rockwell (Iron Man 2)
Kelly Lynch (Road House)
Tim Curry (IT)
Crispin Glover (Alice In Wonderland)
Matt LeBlanc (Friends)
LL Cool J (Deep Blue Sea)
Tom Green (Road Trip)
Luke Wilson (That 70s Show)
Sean Whalen (Twister)
Melissa McCarthy (Spy)
Ned Bellamy (Terminator: TSCC)
John Forsythe (Scrooged)

Story-wise, the 98-minute movie closely resembles a 50-minute episode of the TV series, though story is the least of the film’s concerns. Natalie (Cameron Diaz), Dylan (Drew Barrymore), and Alex (Lucy Liu) are private eyes working for the elusive, never-seen millionaire Charles Townsend – Charlie (voiced, as he was in the original TV series, by John Forsythe). Bosley (Bill Murray) is Charlie’s assistant, acting as an intermediary between Charlie, his “Angels,” and their clients. Unlike the TV show, the movie provides the girls with James Bondian gadgetry and outrageous superhero-like prowess.What plot there is involves the apparent kidnapping of a Bill Gates-type software genius, Eric Knox (Sam Rockwell). Business partner Vivian Wood (Kelly Lynch) hires Charlie’s Angels to rescue him from communications magnate Roger Corwin (Tim Curry) before he can get his hands on Knox’s latest invention, a voice-recognition system. Combined with satellite monitoring, it would enable users to track down virtually anyone anywhere in the world, rendering privacy a thing of the past.Charlie’s Angels was directed by Joseph McGinty Nichol, who goes by the professional moniker “McG.” This was his first feature after a well-regarded series of music videos and television commercials. Charlie’s Angels itself very much resembles a movie-length music video or extended television commercial, with its short-attention-span cutting, in-your-face action, and loud pop music blaring non-stop on the soundtrack – including seemingly every song with “Angel” in the title. Almost every shot is visually arresting; even an ordinary fast-food drive-thru is made to look glamorously retro. The locations, including the Chemosphere house in the Hollywood Hills, are well chosen, and the three leads wear colorful costumes throughout, probably going through 50 costume changes during the course of the film.But there’s little in the way of breathing room and what brief pauses there are tend to expose just how empty the picture is. Nevertheless the women are unusually appealing here. Barrymore’s character, the “bad” girl among the angels, is flirtatious while Diaz’s, apparently both a genius and a scatterbrain at once, has a genuinely sweet blossoming romance with an equally clueless bartender well-played by Luke Wilson. There’s an obvious affection for the original TV show which, while conceptually ingenious was routine and undistinguished, though initially quite popular. The movie embraces its iconography, including the TV show’s clever opening title design. It’s also nice to hear Forsythe’s voice emanating from that little white speaker again. Like the TV show, the film poignantly closes with the Angels almost but not quite getting to meet their boss, a wrap-up scene that’s like a little tribute to the distinguished actor playing him. (Forsythe passed away earlier this year, at the age of 92.)

CAST

Cameron Diaz (Bad teacher)
Drew Barrymore (Poison Ivy)
Lucy Liu (Kill BIll)
Bernie Mac (Bad Santa)
Crispin Glover (Alice In Wonderland)
Justin Theroux (American Psycho)
Robert Patrick (Terminator 2)
Demi Moore (G.I. Jane)
Rodrigo Santoro (300)
Shia LaBeouf (Transformers)
Matt LeBlanc (Friends)
Luke Wilson (That 70s Show)
John Cleese (Rat Race)
Robert Forster (Dragon wars)
Eve (XXX)
Pink (Rollerball)
Carrie Fisher (Star Wars)
Steve Hytner (The Prophecy)
John Forsythe (Scrooged)
Ashley Olsen (Full House)
Mary-Kate Olsen (Full House)
Jaclyn Smith (The Bourne Identity TV)
Bruce Willis (Die Hard)

The Angels are back and better than ever. The trio of heroines are infinitely charming, and the film is full of sparkling pop-culture energy that is impossible to resist. Then a pair of rings encoded with the identities and addresses of everyone in the witness protection program are stolen from the Justice Department, the Angels are called in to retrieve them. With every international mafia family is after the rings, the Angels must employ quick wits and sharp outfits to succeed.

Charlie’s Angels does three major things right: first, it’s extremely self-aware and absolves the audience of any inclination to take the film seriously. Charlie’s Angels doesn’t want to win an Oscar, it wants you to have a good time. From jokes about the number of screenwriters needed to make an action movie, to cameos by the Olsen Twins as next generation angels, to innumerable film references, the movie revels in its roots. Secondly, there is a lot of variety in the action sequences, which keeps things from ever getting boring. Where most action films are all gun battles and car chases, Charlie’s Angels has surfing, motorcross, street luge, martial arts, gun fights, and they do it all in high heels! Finally, and most importantly, the Angels inspire the audience. Who wants to be an angry Hulk or wear that funny-looking Daredevil outfit? Without the liability of a serious comic book behind it, Charlie’s Angels can toss aside the introspective melodrama and get back to action movie basics: having fun and kicking butt.And then there’s Demi Moore. Dear Lord. The 41-year-old mother of three looks absolutely stunning and holds her own in the film. She’s perfectly snooty and evil and, rumor has it that’s how she was on the set as well. Although, in Moore’s defense, the trio of Barrymore, Liu, and Diaz ooze cliquishness. Their best-friends-forever chemistry works great in the film, it’s like watching the behind-the-scenes moments of the most popular girls in school, but just like those cliques, it was probably not much fun to be around.Bernie Mac was entertaining as Bosley, but clearly holding back. Additionally, Alex (Lucy Liu) could benefit from having her character flushed out a little more. Dylan (Drew Barrymore) is the most well-established angel), and Cameron Diaz’s Natalie assumes the persona of all previous goofy-get-glamorous Diaz roles. Lucy Liu, is the other hand, is just the angel who gets the bad dialogue. all in all a great sequel, just a shame we never got a third outing.

 

REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS 1-4

CAST

Shia LaBeouf (Eagle Eye)
Megan Fox (New Girl)
Josh Duhamel (Las Vegas)
Tyrese Gibson (2 Fast 2 Furious)
Rachael Taylor (The Darkest Hour)
Anthony Anderson (The Departed)
Jon Voight (Mission Impossible)
John Turturro (Barton Fink)
Michael O’Neill (Secondhand Lions)
Kevin Dunn (Vicky Cristina Barcelona)
Julie White (Monsters Vs Aliens)
Zack Ward (Bloodrayne 2)
Travis Van winkle (Meet The Spartans)
Bernie Mac (Bad Santa)
Tom Lenk (Angel)
J.P. Manoux (Birds of Prey)
Odette Annable (The Unborn)
Peter Cullen (Transformers Prime)
Mark Ryan (Black Sails)
Darius McCrary (15 Minutes)
Robert Foxworth (Omen II)
Jess Harnell (Wall-e)
Hugo Weaving (The Matrix)
Reno Wilson (Mike & Molly)
Colton Haynes (Arrow)

Searching the galaxy for a troublesome energy cube, the Autobots, lead by Optimus Prime (voiced robustly by legend Peter Cullen), have arrived on Earth. Teaming up with a teenager named Sam (Shia LeBeouf) and innocent bystander Mikeala (Megan Fox), the Autobots set out to complete their mission; but when government agents interfere (led by John Turturro and Jon Voight, with soldiers played by Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson), it awakens the wrath of the Decepticons, who free their leader Megatron (Hugo Weaving) from his ice prison and put Earth in their crosshairs as they challenge Prime for control of the all-powerful cube.

Granted, these aren’t your granddaddy’s Transformers. Souped up to resemble high-tech living robots while fighting and the latest in automobile trends in car form, Bay and the producers have mucked around considerably with the look of the Autobots and Decepticons, putting the infamous flames on Optimus Prime and turning Megatron into an alien jet. Supporters of the all-holy “G1” have every right to scoff, but “Transformers” has a wonderful way of making these ludicrous alterations fit into the bigger, slicker picture, pressing down hard on the extraterrestrial angle of our visitors. It’s only a matter of moments before you buy these reinvented incarnations of popular characters and another few seconds before you start to root for their victory and defeat.

Running at 140 minutes, Transformers never runs out of juice.

 

 

CAST

Shia LaBeouf (Eagle Eye)
Megan Fox (New Girl)
Josh Duhamel (Las Vegas)
Tyrese Gibson (2 Fast 2 Furious)
John Turturro (Barton Fink)
Ramon Rodriguez (Need For Speed)
Kevin Dunn (Vicky Cristina Barcelona)
Julie White (Monsters Vs Aliens)
Isabel Lucas (Red Dawn)
America Olivo (Bitch Slap)
Eric Pierpoint (Alien Nation)
Peter Cullen (Transformers Prime)
Mark Ryan (Black Sails)
Hugo Weaving (The Matrix)
Reno Wilson (Mike & Molly)
Robert Foxworth (Omen II)
Jess Harnell (Wall-e)
Tony Todd (Wishmaster)
Frank Walker (The Simpsons)
Tom Kenny (The Batman)
Michael York (Logans Run)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)

A sequel to the 2007 movie that brings us back to the main characters from that. Two years have passed for then. Sam is off to college and is getting along nicely with girlfriend Mikaela. He’s also trying to distance himself from the whole alien robots whom he got involved with in the first film. The good guy Autobots are helping the military destroy the evil deceptions. But the latter have a whole new plan that involves a figure from their history. As that kicks into action, nobody is safe, and it’s time for Sam and Mikaela to help save the world again.

This builds things up to a much greater scale than the first film, and it brings in a lot more of the robots, both good and bad ones. This is the right decision but there’s so many new characters, few of whom get anything other than cursory introductions, that those who don’t know the transformers characters from other media might be a bit confused. There were times when I thought a scorecard would have helped. Some have rather silly voices and some are used for comic relief, but these ones do at the same time have a fair amount of character as a result, so they work.

The plot also being move involved means you do have to work at it, a little more than you might expect from a piece of escapist entertainment. And yet, whilst it’s not as focused as the first film, it does come up with a big action battle climax.  As humans and alien robots alike battle evil forces and strive to do the right thing and are quite prepared to put their lives on the line, it’s not hard to find yourself rooting for them all the way.

CAST

Shia LaBeouf (Eagle Eye)
Rosie Huntington-Whiteley (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Josh Duhamel (Las Vegas)
Tyrese Gibson (Fast 2 Furious)
John Turturro (Barton Fink)
Patrick Dempsey (Grey’s Anatomy)
Frances McDormand (Burn After Reading)
John Malkovich (Red)
Kevin Dunn (Vicky Cristina Barcelona)
Julie White (Monsters Vs Aliens)
Alan Tudyk (Firefly)
Ken Jeong (The Hangover)
Scott Krinsky (Chuck)
Peter Cullen (Transformers Prime)
Mark Ryan (Black Sails)
Hugo Weaving (The Matrix)
Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek)
Jess Harnell (Wall-e)
Robert Foxworth (Omen II)
James Remar (Flashforward)
George Coe (The Entity)
Reno Wilson (Mike & Molly)
Tom Kenny (The Batman)
Frank Welker (The Simpsons)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Keith Szarabajka (Angel)

The story,  involves a Transformer named Sentinel Prime (Leonard Nimoy), who crashed on the moon in the 1960s and is re-awakened by Optimus Prime (voice of Peter Cullen) in the present day. This sets in motion a chain of events that build to a Transformer war, with Megatron (voice of Hugo Weaving) on one side, and Optimus on the other, with the fate of the human race dangling in the middle.

Eventually, we are returned to Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), the protagonist from the last two films, and his girlfriend Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley). Sam is irritated that after his participation in the battle between Autobots and Decepticons, he’s been out of college for a few months and still doesn’t have a job with the military, or with anyone at all, for that matter. LaBeouf makes these scenes work. Carly’s boss, Dylan (Patrick Dempsey), ribs Sam by referring to a car as “trying to evoke the curves of a woman,” while both Dylan and the camera stare lecherously at Carly.

Ultimately, Bay’s primary success here is casting. In addition to Dempsey (pleasingly cynical), Dark of the Moon boasts an elaborate roster of recognizable, exceptional professionals, like John Malkovich (ridiculous), Frances McDormand (deadly serious), Ken Jeong (psychotic), and Alan Tudyk (over-the-top), who give the film color around its big silly edges. McDormand in particular adds a level of gravitas to the first half of the movie that really greases the wheels, and even though she’s relegated to the far back in the last third, she shares her time with returning player John Turturro, with whom she has amusing chemistry. Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, Kevin Dunn, and Julie White also return.

Everything else is action, action, action. This time, Bay is better with his action geography and choreography, illustrating fights from a distance and turning down the dust clouds a little bit. The 3D often helps, adding a dizzying sense of height to moments such as several characters leaping out onto the side of a tilting glass building, or troops in gliding suits diving out of falling helicopters and soaring an improbable distance across the city.

 

 

CAST

Mark Wahlberg (The Lovely Bones)
Stanley Tucci (The Hunger Games)
Kelsey Grammer (X-Men 3)
Nicola Peltz (Bates Motel)
Jack Reynor (Macbeth)
Titus Welliver (Lost)
Sophia Myles (Underworld)
Bingbing Li (The Message)
T.J. Miller (Deadpool)
Thomas Lennon (17 Again)
Erika Fong (Power Rangers Samurai)
Cleo King (Mike & Molly)
Peter Cullen (Transformers Prime)
Frank Welker (The Simpsons)
Ken Watanabe (Batman Begins)
Robert Foxworth (Omen II)
John DiMaggio (Futurama)
Mark Ryan (Black Sails)
Reno Wilson (Mike & Molly)
John Goodman (Red State)

After the monstrous success of his first Transformers trilogy, Hollywood outlaw Michael Bay parted ways with star Shia Labeouf and began a new chapter in his franchise. Mark Wahlberg joins the cast and gives an agreeable performance.

The United States Government no longer supports the Autobot/military alliance, and a shady CIA unit dubbed Cemetery Wind is responsible for hunting down the Decepticons hiding on Earth. Blue-blood inventor Cade Yeager (Wahlberg) struggles to support his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) without a steady paycheck, but discovers a rundown semi-truck cab in an abandoned theater that turns out to be a heavily damaged Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen). Optimus reveals that the CIA is using Deception bounty hunter Lockdown to kill the Autobots, and helps Cade and Tessa escape a Cemetery Wind ambush. They rejoin Autobots Bumblebee, Hound, Drift and Crosshairs, and discover that multinational corporation KSI has recreated Transformium, the unstable metal found in Transformers. This leads KSI head Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci) to create his own warriors from Deception leftovers, including deadly Galvatron.


As expected, Bay creates a film on a bigger scale than his last outing, Transformers: Dark of the Moon. The practical sets and action sequences are absolutely immense, and Bay again shoots heavily in Detroit, which doubles for Hong Kong.

These films have always been pretty funny, and, while Kruger’s writing will not be winning any awards, it has improved from the Mudflap/Skids jive-talking nonsense of Revenge of the Fallen. Tucci is always funny in tense situations, and comedian T.J. Miller gets some laughs as Cade’s borderline annoying best friend. Wahlberg is a different he gives a committed performance here, and makes the dialogue believable. I like that Bay and company made Cade a single dad, and Peltz’s Tessa is surprisingly not annoying.

The first hour, set at the Yeager homestead in Texas, is my favorite. I enjoyed watching Cade and Tessa meet Optimus and flee from Cemetery Wind. Scenes on Lockdown’s imposing prison ship are also good.  This was intended to be the first film in a new trilogy,with transformers 5 already in the pipeline. The last scene opens the transformers cinematic universe, leaving it open for the fifth to explore further the transformer mythology.