REVIEW: 9

CAST (VOICES)

Elijah Wood (Lord of The Rings)
Christopher Plummer (The Sound of Music)
Martin Landau (Ed Wood)
John C. Reilly (Step Brothers)
Crispin Glover (Alice In Wonderland)
Jennifer Connelly (Hulk)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)
Alan Oppenheimer (He-Man)
Tom Kane (Star Wars: The Clone Wars)

Elijah Wood in 9 (2009)In Germany, 1930, a Scientist (Alan Oppenheimer) is ordered by his dictator, Chancellor Ferdinand (Tom Kane), to create a robot in the apparent name of progress. The Scientist uses his own intellect to create the B.R.A.I.N, a highly intelligent robot without a soul. Upon completion however, the dictator quickly seizes it and turns it into the Fabrication Machine, an armature that can construct an army of war machines to destroy the dictator’s enemies. Lacking a soul, the Fabrication Machine decides to exterminate all of Earth’s population. The Fabrication Machine reprograms the other war machines to attack humanity, wiping out all plant, animal and microbial life with toxic gas and chemical weapons. On the verge of destruction, the Scientist uses alchemy to create nine homunculus-like rag dolls known as “Stitchpunks,” giving them portions of his own soul via a talisman he created. He dies upon completion of the final doll.Martin Landau in 9 (2009)Some time later, the final Stitchpunk, 9 (Elijah Wood), awakens in the Scientist’s workshop. Taking the talisman with him, 9 ventures into the devastated city and meets 2 (Martin Landau), a frail inventor who gives him a working voice box and is surprised to see the talisman. The last active machine, the Cat-Beast, attacks the pair and abducts both 2 and the talisman. 9 collapses, but awakens in Sanctuary, the tower of an empty cathedral that is home to other Stitchpunks – the dogmatic leader 1 (Christopher Plummer), his large bodyguard 8 (Fred Tatasciore), the cycloptic engineer 5 (John C. Reilly), and the mentally unstable oracle 6 (Crispin Glover). 1 immediately declares 2 as dead, but 9, having seen the condemned factory where the Cat-Beast took him, decides to rescue him. 9 and 5 venture to the factory where they find 2. The Cat-Beast attacks the trio, but are saved by 7 (Jennifer Connelly), the only female of the Stitchpunks. 9, drawn by curiosity, connects the talisman to the derelict Fabrication Machine, reviving it, and it subsequently kills 2 by sucking out his soul. 9, 5, and 7 manage to escape the factory.Elijah Wood and Martin Landau in 9 (2009)7 takes 9 and 5 to an abandoned library, where the silent scholar twins, 3 and 4, show 9 the Fabrication Machine’s origins. 5 realizes the talisman’s symbols match the clairvoyant drawings of 6. 9 and 5 return to Sanctuary to investigate, but 1 intervenes and reprimands them for disobeying his orders. Meanwhile, the Fabrication Machine assembles new robotic creatures; one of them, the bird-like Winged Beast, attacks Sanctuary, leading to a battle between it and the Stitchpunks. 7 joins the fight, but is injured. The Stitchpunks win, defeating the Winged Beast, however, they lose their safe-house, as a fire had started during the fight.John C. Reilly and Elijah Wood in 9 (2009)As the group retreats to the library, 6, 3, and 4 cryptically explain the talisman’s origins, but 1 reveals to the group that he sent 2 out of Sanctuary on a scouting trip to die (declaring that, “sometimes, one must be sacrificed for the good of many”). 7, shocked by this, attacks 1, but flees when 9 intervenes. Meanwhile, the Fabrication Machine retrieves 2’s corpse and uses it as a hypnotic lure for another one of its robot creatures, known as The Seamstress. The Seamstress attacks the library and captures both 7 and 8, but 2’s body is recovered and given a funeral by the others. The others then run to the factory to destroy the machines. 9 goes in alone, kills the Seamstress, and rescues 7, but not before 8’s soul is absorbed by the Fabrication Machine. 9 and 7 escape while the others destroy the factory.9 (2009)The Stitchpunks celebrate the destruction of the factory, but the Fabrication Machine, which survived, suddenly emerges from the ruins of the factory and absorbs 5’s soul. The Fabrication Machine attacks the group as they run away, and finally captures 6, who is absorbed but has told 9 to go to the Scientist’s workshop to find answers. 9 follows 6’s instructions, finding a holographic recorded message from the Scientist, explaining B.R.A.I.N.’s origins and that the Stitchpunks have his soul, making them the only hope for humanity. Following this revelation, 9 returns to his friends. 9 reunites with the other Stitchpunks and decides to sacrifice himself so the others can retrieve the talisman. Having had a change of heart, 1 redeems himself by saving 9, pushing him out of the way and allowing himself to be absorbed while 9 removes the talisman. 9 activates the talisman and reabsorbs the souls taken by the Machine, resulting in its final destruction. Afterwards, 9, 7, 3, and 4 free the souls of 5, 1, 6, 2, and 8 from the talisman as they fly up into the sky, causing it to rain. The final image shows that the raindrops contain small flecks of glowing bacteria, bringing life back into the world.9 (2009)The first time I watched the film, I felt like everything flew by. It was visual overload, and it just had bad pacing overall. However, on my second viewing of the movie, I noticed that things seemed to go by much, much slower. The pacing seemed better. I noticed character and plot subtleties that I simply did not catch the first time I watched it. I connected more with the stitchpunks, and I understood the story better. The visuals weren’t just “Ohhh, pretty!” anymore, they had greater symbolism, and depth. This movie reveals new surprises every time you watch it. If you have seen it once already, and didn’t think it was that great, I strongly suggest giving this movie a second chance. You may be surprised how much your opinion changes.

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REVIEW: THE FORGER (2014)

CAST

John Travolta (The Punisher)
Christopher Plummer (All The Money In The World)
Abigail Spencer (The Haunting In Connecticut 2)
Jennifer Ehle (Fifty Shades of Grey)
Tye Sheridan (X-Men: Apocalypse)
Anson Mount (Inhumans)
Victor Gojcaj (The Taking of Pelham 123)

Christopher Plummer in The Forger (2014)The world’s best art forger (John Travolta) makes a deal with a crime syndicate to get an early release from prison, but in return he must pull off an impossible heist – he must forge a painting by Claude Monet, steal the original from a museum, and replace it with a replica so perfect that no one will notice. He enlists the help of his father (Christopher Plummer) and son (Tye Sheridan) and together they plan the heist of their lives!John Travolta in The Forger (2014)The Forger, yet pretty forgettable, is still quite an involving drama, with an excellent performance from Travolta. The Forger offers little surprises and sits between good and fair. It’s not a bad film but a decent enough one that will entertain on a slow day.

REVIEW: SKELETONS

CAST

Ron Silver (Timecop)
Christopher Plummer (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Dee Wallace (E.T.)
Kyle Howard (Orange County0
James Coburn (The Great Escape)
Arlene Golonka (The In-Laws)
Dennis Christopher (Django Unchained)

skeletons_1A heart attack moves a Pulitzer winning journalist to leave NY for the peace of a small New England town, but he soon finds himself pulled into a case of a man accused of killing his gay lover with the blade of a shovel. Wanting to keep the case quiet, the town turns against the journalist and his family when he begins digging into its secrets, until finally the accused man is found hanging in his cell and the truth comes out about more than just the killing.skeletons_1I’d recommend seeing “Skeletons” because it is a mystery, but unfortunately the mystery doesn’t last long enough and when the “twist” comes, we’ve already figured it out.

REVIEW: MINDFIELD

CAST

Michael Ironside (X-Men: First Class)
Lisa Langlois (The Nest)
Christopher Plummer (A Beautiful Mind)
George Sperdakos (Devil’s Advocate)
Eugene Clark (Land of Teh Dead)
Michael Sinelnikoff (The Lost World)
Russell Yuen  (Arrival)

2wr34tr34tAlthough made for an Anglophone straight-to-video market, Quebec science-fiction director Jean Claude Lord’s Mindfield also taps into the audience’s lingering fears about the the Cameron and Duplessis incidents, focusing on a fictional story built around the MKULTRA brainwashing program. Mindfield stars Michael Ironside in a rare “good guy” role as a police detective fighting the mob and his own repressed electroshock memories. Hard-boiled Kellen (Ironside) is hard at work organizing a police strike, but keeps getting distracted by vague flashbacks of the mysterious Dr Satorious (Plummer). At one union meeting he finds himself in a heated debate with Sarah, a civil rights lawyer who is currently trying a case against Dr Satorious. Sarah believes Satorious is using a combination of LSD and electroshock therapy to program people to kill, and then wipe their memories clean. Once Kellen reveals that he has been experiment on, Sarah asks him to testify. Kellen doesn’t like the idea, but during a shared car ride home, they dubiously forget their past arguments and end up falling in love.2On the way, Sarah stops at a pharmacy to get a prescription filled while Kellen waits in the car. As she steps in the store, so does Bob Champlain (played by Harvey Atkin, voice of the Leon’s commercials). Within minutes, four guys in ski masks break in and pull out their guns. When Kellen goes in to buy some cigarettes, he immediately realizes that the place is being robbed, and after another flashback, he pulls out his own gun and starts thinning out their ranks. The remaining crooks grab Bob as a hostage and drag him outside, demanding he tells them where “the key” is. Fearfully, Bob tells them it’s in his safe, and is shot before the remaining thugs take off. Kellen overhears this exchange, and when he gets to police headquarters he tells his Captain the robbery was merely a mob set-up to get Bob’s key. He grabs his partner and they go down to Bob’s office. Cracking his safe they find nothing but a huge stack of porn, but underneath the safe itself they stumble on a safe deposit key with a keychain from Erotim, a local sex shop. They visit the store, where the owner, a police informant, tells them about Bob’s connections to Johnny, an area mobster. After a few more professionals with mob connections are found dead, Kellen decides to take some action. Johnny is resting casually in his hot tub when a disrobed Kellen stealthily slips in beside him. Instead of say, shooting him to death, Johnny decides that a naked cop in his hot tub shows some sort of twisted moxie, and reveals that Rudy, an American hitman unconnected to his operation killed Bob.22Posing as Bob, Kellen visits the bank and gets the contents of the safe deposit box a film of Dr Satorious making brainwashed electroshock patients shoot at targets. But upon watching it, Kellen recognizes himself as one of the subjects! When Rudy kills Kellen’s partner with a car bomb, Kellen begins to see the extent of this government-sponsored conspiracy. After giving the incriminating film to Sarah for safe-keeping, he induces a flashback in himself by dropping acid. Stumbling into Satorious’ lab, Kellen discovers a computer file which lists mind-control subjects/assassins, including Lee Harvey Oswald. Kellen confronts Satorious with this evidence, but is caught off guard when Rudy shows up. Rudy and Satorious strap Kellen into an electroshock machine in an attempt to erase the incriminating data from his memory, but Kellen manages to escape, and hightails it to Olympic Stadium for the Police Union meeting (remember that plotline?). He is the only one who can save Sarah and the film, exposing government mind control programs. But he still doesn’t realize how far the conspiracy reaches.1

One of the final Anglophone feature films Jean-Claude Lord made, Mindfield is ambitious in it’s plotting, but needlessly confusing. Multiple storylines including the mob connections, the police strike, Satorious’ trial and Johnny’s prostitution ring muddy up the main thrust of the story and detract from Kellen’s singular quest for answers and revenge.  Despite their flaws, Canadian genre films like Jean-Claude Lord’s Mindfield are truly Canuxploitation films, tapping into our distinctly fears and reminding us of the dangers of a Government with no value for it’s populace.

 

REVIEW: INSIDE MAN

CAST

Denzel Washington (The Equalizer)
Clive Owen (Sin City)
Jodie Foster (The Brave One)
Christopher Plummer (The Sound of Music)
Willem Dafoe (American Psycho)
Chiwetel Ejiofor (Doctor Strange)
Kim Director (Blair Witch 2)
Ken Leung (Lost)

A man named Dalton Russell sits in an unidentified cell and narrates a story of how he has committed the perfect robbery. In New York, masked robbers, dressed as painters and using variants of the name “Steve” as aliases, seize control of a Manhattan bank and take the patrons and employees hostage. They divide the hostages into groups and hold them in different rooms, forcing them to don painters clothes identical to their own. The robbers rotate the hostages among various rooms and occasionally insert themselves covertly into the groups. They also take turns working on an unspecified project involving demolishing the floor in one of the bank’s storage rooms.Police surround the bank and Detectives Keith Frazier and Bill Mitchell take charge of the negotiations. Russell, the leader of the robbers, demands food and the police supply them with pizzas whose boxes include listening devices. The bugs pick up a language which the police identify as Albanian. They discover, however, that the conversations are in fact propaganda recordings of deceased Albanian communist dictator Enver Hoxha, implying that the robbers anticipated the attempted surveillance.When Arthur Case, chairman of the board of directors and founder of the bank, hears of the robbery taking place, he hires “fixer” Madeleine White to try to protect the contents of his safe deposit box within the bank. White arranges a conversation with Russell, who allows her to enter the bank and inspect the contents of the box, which include documents from Nazi Germany. Russell implies that Case started his bank with money that he received from the Nazis for unspecified services, resulting in the deaths of many Jewish people during World War II. White tells Russell that Case will pay him a substantial sum if he destroys the contents of the box. Frazier demands to inspect the hostages before allowing the robbers to leave and Russell takes him on a tour of the bank. As he is being shown out, Frazier attacks Russell, but is restrained by another of the robbers. Afterwards he explains that he deliberately tried to provoke Russell and judges that the man is not a killer. However, this is disproven when the robbers execute one of the hostages.The execution prompts the ESU team into action. They plan to storm the bank and use rubber bullets to knock out those inside. Frazier discovers that the robbers have planted a listening device on the police; aware of the police plans, the robbers detonate smoke grenades and release the hostages. The police detain and question everyone but are unable to distinguish the identically dressed hostages from the robbers. A search of the bank reveals the robbers’ weapons were plastic replicas. They find props for faking the execution, but no money or valuables appear to have been stolen. With no way to identify the suspects and unsure if a crime has even been committed, Frazier’s superior orders him to drop the case.Frazier, however, searches the bank’s records and finds that safe deposit box #392 has never appeared on any records since the bank’s founding in 1948. He obtains a search warrant to open it. He is then confronted by White, who informs him of Case’s Nazi dealings. She attempts to persuade Frazier to drop his investigation, but he refuses, playing a recording of an incriminating conversation that she had with him. White confronts Case who admits that the box contained diamonds and a ring that he had taken from a Jewish friend whom he had betrayed to the Nazis.  Russell repeats his opening monologue, but with the revelation that he is in fact hiding behind a fake wall the robbers had constructed inside the bank’s supply room. He emerges a week after the robbery with the contents of Case’s safe deposit box, including incriminating documents and several bags of diamonds. On his way out, he bumps into Frazier, who does not recognize him. When Frazier opens the safe deposit box, he finds the ring and a note from Russell. Frazier confronts Case and urges White to contact the Office of War Crimes Issues at the State Department about Case’s war crimes. At home, Frazier finds a loose diamond, slipped into his pocket by Russell.It’s not a flawless film by any means: the last reel doesn’t quite match up to what preceded it, and the script doesn’t really get you near the skin of the characters (even if it does serve up some delicious, not entirely expected moments). Yet as heist movies go, this is one of the better examples of recent times, with plenty of reasons to recommend it.

REVIEW: THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS

CAST

Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)
Lily Cole (Snow White and The Huntsman)
Johnny Depp (Public Enemies)
Colin Farrell (Intermission)
Jude Law (Spy)
Christopher Plummer (The Last Station)
Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Verne Troyer (Austin Powers 2 & 3)
Tom Waits (Mystery Men)

Doctor Parnassus’ theater troupe, which includes sleight of hand expert Anton, confidant Percy, and Parnassus’ daughter Valentina, performs outside a London pub. The troupe’s main attraction is a magical “Imaginarium”, which offers whoever enters it a choice between difficult self-fulfillment or easy ignorance. After a drunkard is swayed to the latter, Parnassus says he has lost another one to Mr. Nick, a suave personification of the Devil. Mr. Nick reminds Parnassus that in three days Valentina turns 16, and her soul will be his. Hundreds of years ago Mr. Nick tricked Parnassus into gaining immortality, after making a wager similar to his current predicament.As the troupe crosses a bridge, Anton spies someone hanging beneath it. They rescue the man, who spits out a golden pipe when revived. Claiming to have amnesia, he joins the troupe as a barker. Parnassus becomes despondent over the impending loss of his daughter. Mr. Nick visits Parnassus, revealing the hanging man is a disgraced philanthropist named “Tony”. He offers Parnassus a wager: Valentina can stay with whoever wins five souls first.Tony convinces the troupe to remodel the show into a more modern act. While performing, Tony lures a posh woman into the Imaginarium and follows her, where they enter a pastel-coloured dream-world representing the woman’s imagination. The woman’s imagination also changes Tony’s face; upon discovering this, he dances elegantly with her, and they spy a motel run by Mr. Nick. Tony convinces the woman to take a gondola toward a pyramid alone, winning a soul for Parnassus. Tony falls back out of the Imaginarium, returning his face to normal; the woman exits shortly after and gives the troupe a vast sum of money. When three other women enter, each emerges elated; and thus Parnassus wins three more souls. Four Russian gangsters, to whom Tony owes money, are taken by Mr. Nick when they chase Tony into the Imaginarium. The score becomes four souls apiece.With the bet nearing its end, Parnassus reveals Valentina’s conception to her: after ageing from immortality, Parnassus made a new pact with Mr. Nick to be youthful again, in order to win the heart of a woman he loved. In exchange, any child he fathered would become Mr. Nick’s property at age 16. Valentina attempts to run away, but Tony enters the Imaginarium to give his soul to Parnassus; in exchange, Parnassus must teach him the trance that powers the dream world. Valentina returns as he tries to enter the mirror, but Anton blocks them, having discovered that Tony is a fraudulent charity scammer.Tony fights off Anton, pushes Valentina into the Imaginarium and joins her. Influenced by Valentina’s desires, Tony’s face changes again, and they float along a beautiful river in a gondola. After an impoverished child disrupts their boat trip, Tony transforms into a philanthropist speaking at a fundraiser. Anton, following the pair into the Imaginarium, appears as an outspoken child and exposes Tony as a fraud. A mob pursues Tony as the landscape disintegrates, causing Anton to fall into a void. Distraught and angry over her father’s bargain and a lifetime of hiding of the truth from her, Valentina gives her soul to Mr. Nick. Disillusioned by the easy victory, Mr. Nick offers Parnassus to trade Valentina for Tony. Chased by the mob, Tony flees to a gallows, but Parnassus confronts him, holding Tony’s pipe and a copy. Parnassus challenges Tony to choose which pipe is genuine. He chooses wrongly, inserts the copy in his windpipe, and is hanged. Mr. Nick keeps his word and Valentina is freed, but Parnassus is not told where she is, and is abandoned to wander in the Imaginarium.Parnassus emerges years later, finding Valentina is married to Anton and they have a daughter. He watches them from outside a restaurant window, but when tempted to join them, he is stopped by Percy. Teaming up once more, Parnassus and Percy sell toy theatre replicas of the Imaginarium and the troupe on a street corner. Mr. Nick invites Parnassus over to him, but Percy puts an end to the temptation.The acting is good, with Lily Cole surprisingly impressive and old hands Christopher Plummer and Tom Waits leading by example. Terry Gilliam direction combines the fantastical and the ordinary in a way that only he can. It is the first time he has participated in the writing process for two decades and this film has an autobiographical feel as Doctor Parnassus tries to entice with stories and the imagination only to be met by cynical crowds. This effort to wow the public may not move them away from CGI and is short of his best, but it is still entertaining and favourable over films which lack charm, imagination and storytelling.

REVIEW: PRIEST

CAST

Paul Bettany (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
Karl Urban (Dredd)
Cam Gigandet (Easy A)
Maggie Q (Divergent)
Lily Collins (Mirror Mirror)
Brad Dourif (Curse of Chucky)
Stephen Moyer (True Blood)
Christopher Plummer (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo)
Alan Dale (Lost)
Mädchen Amick (Sleepwalkers)

A centuries long war between humans and vampires has devastated the planet’s surface and led to a theocracy under an organization called The Church. They constructed giant walled cities to protect mankind and developed a group of elite warriors, the Priests, to turn the tide against the vampires. The majority of the vampires were killed, while the remainder were placed in reservations. With the war over, the Clergy disbanded the Priests. Outside the walled cities, some humans seek out a living, free from the totalitarian control of the Church.
Priest (Paul Bettany) is approached by Hicks (Cam Gigandet), the sheriff of Augustine, a free town. Priest learns that his brother and his wife, Shannon – Priest’s girlfriend before he entered the priesthood – were mortally wounded in a vampire attack, and Priest’s niece, Lucy (Lily Collins), was kidnapped. Hicks asks for Priest’s help in rescuing Lucy. Priest asks the Clergy to reinstate his authority, but Church leader Monsignor Orelas (Christopher Plummer) does not believe the vampire story and refuses. Priest defiantly leaves the city and Orelas sends three Priests and a Priestess to bring him back.
Priest and Hicks arrive at Nightshade Reservation where humans called Familiars, people infected with a pathogen that makes them subservient to the vampires, live alongside a number of the surviving vampires. After a fierce battle, the pair discovers that most of the vampires have taken shelter in Sola Mira, a vampire hive where Priest lost several of his comrades during a major battle. Priestess joins them at Sola Mira, revealing a bond with Priest. The trio destroys a Hive Guardian vampire, then discover that the vampires have bred a new army and dug a tunnel out of the mountain towards a town called Jericho. The other three Priests have arrived at Jericho just as night falls and an armored train arrives, unleashing hundreds of vampires upon the population. The vampires are led by a powerful and mysterious human wearing a black hat. When the three Priests reject Black Hat’s offer to join him, he kills them all.
The next morning, Priest, Priestess and Hicks arrive in Jericho and discover the town empty and the three dead Priests crucified. Priest and Priestess share an intimate moment where she makes her move, hoping that now that Shannon has died, he would no longer feel bound to her. Priest, who is clearly not over Shannon, gently refuses. Priest realizes that the vampires have been using the trains to travel by day and attack the free towns by night, with the walled cities at the end of the train line. Hicks believes an attack on the cities would be unwise because of the sun, but Priest reveals that factories, producing massive clouds of smoke and ash, have permanently deprived the city of sunlight, so the vampire attack would be a slaughter.
Hicks threatens Priest, claiming he will shoot him unless he promises to let Lucy live whether she’s been infected or not. (Priest had earlier revealed to Hicks, who is in love with Lucy, that if they discovered Lucy had been infected as a Familiar, he’d kill her.) Hicks doesn’t understand why Priest, who is basically a stranger to Lucy, cares so much about her. Priestess reveals that Lucy is actually Priest’s daughter, and that his brother, Owen stepped in as a husband and a father when Priest was taken by The Church.
While Priestess rushes ahead to plant a bomb on the railroad tracks, Priest and Hicks board the train to rescue Lucy. Battling vampires and Familiars, the two are finally overpowered by Black Hat just as they find Lucy. Black Hat is revealed as one of the Priests who was defeated in the final attack on Sola Mira and a close friend of Priest. After being captured, the vampire Queen gave him her blood, turning him into the first Vampire-Human hybrid who can survive the sun. As Priest fights Black Hat, Lucy discovers the truth about her parentage. Priestess battles several Familiars, finally placing the explosives on her motor bike and crashing it into the train engine. The explosion and subsequent derailment kills the vampires and engulfs Black Hat in fire, while Hicks, Priest, Priestess, and Lucy are able to escape.
Priest returns to the city and confronts Monsignor Orelas during Mass, telling him of the burnt train containing the vampires’ bodies, but not the queen’s. He proves this by throwing a vampire head onto the floor and shocking everyone in the room. Orelas still refuses to believe him, declaring that the war is over, while Priest says that is just beginning. Outside the city Priest meets Priestess and she reveals that the other Priests have been notified and will meet them at a rendezvous point. Priest sets off into the sunset.Scott Stewart has produced a brilliant picture with Priest. The CGI vampires are also suitably disgusting and resemble the eyeless denizens of hell seen previously in Constantine. The post-script epilogue suggests there is still a story to be told. Sadly with the film not doing sowell at the box office this is all we will get.