REVIEW: WAG THE DOG

CAST

Dustin Hoffman (Rain Man)
Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook)
Anne Heche (Spread)
Denis Leary (The Amazing Spider-Man)
Willie Nelson (The Dukas of Hazzard)
Andrea Martin (Black Christmas)
Kirsten Dunst (All Good Things)
William H. Macy (The Cooler)
John Michael Higgins (Stil LWaiting)
Suzie Plakson (Red Eyed)
Woody Harrelson (The Hugner Games)
Suzanne Cryer (Veronica Mars)
Phil Morris (Jingle All The Way)
John Cho (Sleepy Hollow)
Marguerite Moreau (Easy)
Craig T. Nelson (My Name Is Earl
David Koechner (Anchorman)
James Belushi (Red Heat)
John Franklin (Children of The Corn)
Jack Shearer (Star Trek: First Contact)
Dustin Hoffman and Kirsten Dunst in Wag the Dog (1997)
The President of the United States is caught making advances on an underage “Firefly Girl” less than two weeks before Election Day. Conrad Brean (De Niro), a top-notch spin doctor, is brought in to take the public’s attention away from the scandal. He decides to construct a diversionary war with Albania, hoping the media will concentrate on this instead. Brean contacts Hollywood producer Stanley Motss (Hoffman) to create the war, complete with a theme song and fake film footage of a photogenic orphan (Dunst) in Albania.
When the CIA learns of the plot, they send Agent Young (Macy) to confront Brean who convinces him that revealing the deception is against his best interests. The CIA announces that the war has ended, but otherwise maintains the deception and the media begins to turn back to the President’s abuse scandal. Motss decides to invent a hero who was left behind enemy lines, and inspired by idea that he was “discarded like an old shoe” has the Pentagon provide him with a soldier named Schumann (Harrelson) around whom he constructs a further narrative including T-shirts, additional patriotic songs, and faux-grassroots demonstrations of patriotism. At each stage of the plan, Motss continually dismisses setbacks as “nothing” and compares them to past movie-making catastrophes he averted.
When the team goes to retrieve Schumann, they discover he is in fact a criminally insane Army prison convict before their plane crashes en route to Andrews Air Force Base. The team survives and is rescued by a farmer, but Schumann attempts to rape the farmer’s daughter and the farmer kills him. Motss then stages an elaborate military funeral, claiming that Schumann died from wounds sustained during his rescue.
While watching a political talk show Motss gets frustrated that the media are crediting the president’s win to a tired campaign slogan of “Don’t change horses in mid-stream” rather than Motss’s hard work. Despite previously claiming he was inspired by the challenge, Motss announces that he wants credit and will reveal his involvement, despite Brean’s warning that he is “playing with his life”. Motss refuses to back down, so Brean reluctantly has him killed and makes it look as if he had a heart attack. The president is successfully re-elected and a news report about a violent incident in Albania is shown, but it is ambiguous whether this is a true event or simply a continuation of the fictional war.
“Wag the dog” gathers a very good cast to tell a clever story about politics and its close connection to the TV business. Although the story sometimes seems to be topped by real-life events (Clinton-Lewinsky) it still remains a very entertaining flick. This is due to the many great characters and its precise dialogue which delivers a whole lot of sharp little comments on the dirty business of politics.

25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: IT’S A VERY MERRY MUPPET CHRISTMAS MOVIE

CAST

Dave Goelz (Labyrinth)
Steve Whitmire (The Dark Crystal)
Jerry Nelson (Sesame Street)
Bill Barretta (Kim POssible)
Eric Jacobson (Pinky Dinky Doo)
Brian Henson (Return To Oz)
Kevin Clash (Labyrinth)
David Arquette (Scream)
Joan Cusack (Arthur Christmas)
Matthew Lillard (Scooby-Doo)
Whoopi Goldberg (Star Trek: Generations)
William H. Macy (Jurassic Park III)
Mel Brooks (Spaceballs)
Chantal Strand (Life Size)
Dave “Squatch” Ward (Earthsea)
Zach Braff (The Ex)
Sarah Chalke (Mother’s Day)
Carson Daly (Josie & The Pussycats)
Neil Flynn (Home Alone 3)
John C. McGinley (Highlander 2)
Judy Reyes (Claws)
Kelly Ripa (Batman: Mystery of The Batwoman)
Molly Shannon (Never Been Kissed)

its-a-very-merry-muppet-christmas-01A snowman named Joe Snow (voiced by Mel Brooks) recounts how the Muppet Theater was going through financial hardship, and the Muppets seeking Kermit the Frog for guidance. Kermit eventually feels he is not useful to anyone and an angel named Daniel (David Arquette) brings this up with his Boss (Whoopi Goldberg) as they review what has gone on with Kermit in the past hours.191849-tt0329737Hours earlier, Kermit prepares a Christmas show with his fellow Muppets with Bobo the Bear playing Santa Claus. Kermit is approached by Rachel Bitterman (Joan Cusack), a banker/real estate agent who says that she will foreclose the Muppet Theater if Kermit does not pay her. Pepe the King Prawn leaves the Muppets because he has fallen in love with Bitterman. While trying to raise money to pay Rachel, Kermit tries to find a celebrity to participate in his Christmas play to no avail. Meanwhile, after learning from Pepe that the deadline is midnight, Bitterman changes it to 6:00 p.m. When he sees her with another man however, Pepe leaves her and warns Kermit about the deadline change. Upon learning this, Kermit sends Fozzie to deliver the money to Bitterman. Fozzie confronts a crazed nature-show host (spoofing Steve Irwin), Joe Snow (who gets shot with a tranquilizer by the nature-show host), and a gang of Whos after being dyed green at a Christmas tree lot and mistaken for the Grinch. Fozzie goes through the steam baths and ends up back to normal. When Fozzie eventually makes it to the bank and Bitterman’s office, he goes through a gigantic web of burning lasers leading to Bitterman’s office several times before finally discovering that he’s too late and that he has grabbed the wrong bag containing clothes for the Salvation Army following his incident at the Christmas tree lot.10750_1After witnessing these events, the Boss allows Daniel to help Kermit. When Daniel arrives, and after Kermit wishes he has never been born, he ends up showing Kermit what would have happened if he had not existed. In the world without Kermit, Bitterman has turned the park near the Muppet Theater into a shopping mall called Bitterman Plaza, the Muppet Theater itself has become a nightclub called Club Dot owned by Bitterman, Doc Hopper’s French-Fried Frog Legs has become a famous fast-food restaurant, and all of Kermit’s friends have fallen into various detrimental situations. Kermit has Daniel restore him back to his reality and returns to the Muppet Theater. However, Bitterman arrives to shut the theater down and fights with Miss Piggy. Pepe arrives and announces he has made the Muppet Theater into a historical landmark, foiling Bitterman’s plan. Embittered and defeated, Bitterman storms out of the Muppet Theater. Outside, the Muppets and Joe Snow sing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”.its-a-very-merry-muppet-christmas-08If you are a Muppet/Henson fan check this out for sure. If you enjoy Christmas films with heart lovable characters you’ll like it as well. but don’t expect anything drastically original.

REVIEW: BATMAN BEYOND- SEASON 3

Main Cast
Will Friedle (Batman Ninja)
Kevin Conroy (Batman: TAS)
Cree Summer (Bambi II)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
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Recurring / Notable Guest Cast
George Lazenby (Gettysburg)
Sarah Douglas (Superman I & II)
Olivia d’Abo (Conan The Destroyer)
Parker Stevenson (Baywatch)
Gabrielle Carteris (The Event)
Angie Harmon (Agent Cody Banks)
Nicholas Guest (Trading Places)
Miguel Sandoval (Medium)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)
Ryan O’Donohue (Toy Story)
Victor Raider-Wexler (Dr. Dolittle 2)
Azura Skye (28 Days)
Shannon Kenny (The Invisible Man)
Peter Mark Richman (Friday The 13th 8)
Clyde Kusatsu (Paradise Road)
Stephen Baldwin (Bio-Dome)
William H. Macy (Shameless)
Robert Patrick (Terminator 2)
Gary Anthony Sturgis (Demise)
Olivia Hussey (Black Christmas)
David Warner (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II)
Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
Michael Rosenbaum (Smallville)
Malachi Throne (Catch Me If You Can)
Christopher McDonald (Stargate Universe)
Farrah Forke (Lois & Clark)
Wayne Brady (How I Met Your Mother)
Jodi Benson (Enchanted)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)
Alexis Denisof (Dollhouse)
Takayo Fischer (War of The Worlds)
Xander Berkeley (Kick-Ass)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons)
Grey Griffin (The Book of Life)
Diedrich Bader (American Housewife)
Henry Rollins (Wrong Turn 2)
Kurtwood Smith (That 70s Show)
Julie Nathanson (Dallas & Robo)
Keone Young (Crank)
Kerrigan Mahan (Power Rangers Lost Galaxy)
Corey Burton (Critters)
Seth Green (Family Guy)
Keith Szarabajka (The Dark Knight)
Sean Marquette (Van Wilder)
Victor Rivers (Hulk)

MV5BNDc3MTU5NDY2MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODg5OTQ1MjE@._V1_The episodes in this final release aren’t as dark as some of the great shows in the first box, but they’re still very exciting. The villains don’t have that tragic quality which translated so well from the regular Batman universe, but this lack of atmosphere is made up for with a great sense of adventure and fun.MV5BMTc1NTIxNTUwN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzA5OTQ1MjE@._V1_“The Call”, for example, is a fantastic two-parter that sees Batman team-up with a future Justice League – it’s probably too much to assume that this “Justice League Unlimited” was a conscious forbearer to the actual series, but it’s certainly a great cartoon-geek moment. In the episode, Terry McGuiness uproots a villain who conspires to take over the JLU in a suspenseful story that has a great connection to the original comic book origin of the League.MV5BMTgwMzc0MTY4OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTk4OTQ1MjE@._V1_But the champion episode of the box – and perhaps the series – is “Out of The Past” (would it surprise you to learn that it’s penned by Paul Dini?). Not only does the episode bring back two excellent characters from Bruce Wayne’s past, Ra’s Al Ghul and Talia, and not only does it do it in a way that resonates with both Batman and Bruce, but it’s got, hands down, one of the best tongue-in-cheek moments in the entire DC Animated Universe. It is the stories, and their execution, where the true appeal of these episodes lies. Sure there’s a great setting and a great character, but each of these mini sci-fi/fantasy stories is a very fun and exciting peak into a great imaginary world. Sure, one that happens to borrow a lot from the Batman mythology, but it’s the show’s imaginative qualities that make it a unique world that translates perfectly to the cartoon form.x1080-lasWhile the traditional episode structure does tend to bore, it also does its job. Furthermore, the imaginative fight scenes – whether they be with a villain who is physically untouchable, or a fight in a giant wind tunnel – will keep your attention long after more kinetic, but ultimately rote new series have lost their appeal.  A major sticking point to this set is the lack of a satisfactory conclusion. The series was rather abruptly put to a stop after its checkpoint 52-episode run in 2001. It wasn’t until Justice League Unlimited’s Season Four finale, “Epilogue”, that Batman Beyond was given a proper send-off. But what a send-off it was! After you finish this set it is highly recommended that you seek out the aforementioned episode. While this box’s closer, “Unmasked”, is a nice story, it’s not the series finale that, ironically – yet thankfully – another series would provide. Batman Beyond was born out of a WB executive’s desire to cash in on a popular and recognizable franchise. Because of the fantastic people behind the show, what might have been a hollow concept was turned into something fresh, imaginative, and very worthwhile.

REVIEW: BATMAN BEYOND – SEASON 1

Main Cast

Will Friedle (Batman Ninja)
Kevin Conroy (Batman: TAS)
Cree Summer (Bambi II)
Frank Welker (Transformers)

Terry_and_Bruce

Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Teri Garr (After Hours)
Michael Gross (Tremors)
Sherman Howard (Sueprboy)
George Takei (Star Trek)
Ryan O’Donohue (Toy Story)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)
Seth Green (Family Guy)
Sam McMurray (Raising Arizona)
CCH Pounder (Avatar)
Clyde Kusatsu (Midway)
Corey Burton (Critters)
Shannon Kenny (7th Heaven)
Stockard Channing (Grease)
Mari Devon (Digimon)
Kevin Michael Richardson (The Cleveland Show)
Melissa Disney (Superman vs The Elite)
Bill Smitrovich (Ted)
Gregg Berger (Transformers)
Pauley Perrette (NCIS)
Linda Hamilton (The Terminator)
Michael Ansara (The Message)
Tress MacNeille (Futurama)
Robert Davi (The Goonies)
Kevin Dunn (Transformers)
Jeff Bennett (Enchanted)
Chris Mulkey (Cloverfield)
Olivia d’Abo (Conan The Destroyer)
George Lazenby (Gettysburg)
Amanda Donohoe (Liar Liar)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
Peter Jason (They Live)
Ian Ziering (Sharknado)
Larry Drake (Darkman)
Jon Cypher (Masters of The Universe)
Vernee Watson (The Kid)
Dorian Harewood (Terminator: TSCC)
William H. Macy (Shameless)
Kimmy Robertson (Speed 2)
Barry Dennen (The Dark Crystal)
Victor Raider-Wexler (Minority Report)
Paul Winfield (The Terminator)
Miguel Sandoval (Medium)
Cary Elwes (Saw)

MV5BZTIyYjQ5OWQtNjVjNC00ZGY2LWI4NmItNjRiOTZlMzA1NWJmXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMzExODYzNzc@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1333,1000_AL_Fifty years after Batman: The Animated Series came to a close, Gotham City is without a protector. Failing health and a chilling act of desperation prompted Bruce Wayne to give up Batman’s cape and cowl, and the corporation that had stayed in his family for generations has been wrest from him by a corporate raider named Derek Powers. Never married and abandoned by his sidekicks, the elderly, embittered Wayne lurks inside a sprawling mansion that seems more like a mausoleum than the stately manor of old. Derek Powers is using the remnants of WayneCorp to illegally manufacture an endlessly destructive but extremely profitable nerve gas, a secret that Wayne/Powers employee Warren McGinnis stumbles upon and pays for with his life.DziRsC4XQAEU01AHis troubled son Terry blames himself for the murder, but a chance encounter with Bruce Wayne results in the theft of a Batman suit brimming with cutting-edge technology and the revelation of the man truly responsible for his father’s death. By the time the two-part episode “Rebirth” is over, Bruce Wayne has agreed to guide Terry as the new Batman, and an irradiated Derek Powers is a walking fusion reactor.batman-beyondBatman: The Animated Series, Superman, and Justice League all drew heavily from the established mythos, but Batman Beyond is a largely original creation. Sure, there are quite a few nods to the original series — it’s still set in Gotham City, Barbara Gordon has taken the mantle of police commissioner, and there are winks to fans like the Grey Ghost costume in the Batcave.MV5BMjI4Nzg0NTQ4OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzY5OTQ1MjE@._V1_Terry McGinnis is a very different lead character than Bruce Wayne was in Batman: The Animated Series. In the previous series, it seemed more as if Batman was who this man really was and Bruce Wayne was just an occasionally convenient mask for him to wear. Terry is seen out of costume much more frequently than Bruce ever was and feels like more of a fleshed-out character. He has friends, he has family, and he has a life outside of the pointy-eared hood. Gotham City is still teeming with bad guys, but even though Batman has been transplanted to the future, he’s not squaring off against Joker II or The Riddler Redux. The rogue’s gallery of this futuristic Batman doesn’t lift much from the previous animated series or even from the comics. The only familiar faces are Mr. Freeze, The Royal Flush Gang, and, briefly and unrecognizably, Bane. The other villains are original creations with some striking character designs, such as the amorphous corporate saboteur Inque, sound-engineer-with-a-power-suit Shriek, and the hypnotic Spellbound. This season also doesn’t rehash the same villains over and over again, with Inque being the only baddie other than Derek Powers’ Blight to strike more than once.MV5BMTQ0ODcyNjYwOF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTU5OTQ1MjE@._V1_Several of the supervillains aren’t costumed-threats-of-the-week, but ordinary people in extraordinary situations: Willie Watt in “Golem” is a nerdy high schooler who seizes control of a two-story-tall construction robot to exact revenge on the bullies who torment him, and “The Winning Edge” is about high school athletes using steroids yet deftly avoids playing like ‘a very special episode of Batman Beyond’. One thing Batman’s adversaries, costumed and plainclothes alike, have in common is their origins. Nearly all of the villains in Batman Beyond are born of tragedy or greed, and that gives these episodes more of a resonance than something like The Joker pumping Gotham City with laughing gas for no reason in particular.AscensionAnother stand-out is “Shriek”, pitting Batman against an enemy whose technology enables him to manipulate sound. One of the most inventive sequences in the entire run of the series is set in a car factory where Batman starts setting off every piece of equipment in arm’s reach as a distraction. Shriek uses his technology to block out the noise and isolate Batman’s movements, resulting in an almost entirely silent battle with no dialogue, few sound effects, and a sparse, subtle score.126915This first season of Batman Beyond is remarkably consistent, offering perhaps the strongest debut of any DC animated series to date.

REVIEW: SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES – VOLUME 3

Starring

Tim Daly (Madam Secretary)
Dana Delany (Desperate Housewives)
David Kaufman (Stargate SG.1)
Clancy Brown (Highlander)

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Recurring / Notable Guest Cast

Sharon Lawrence (The Ranch)
Lauren Tom (Bad Santa)
Miguel Ferrer (Robocop)
Renée Taylor (The Nanny)
Jack Carter (McCloud)
Brad Garrett (Christopher Robin)
Michael Ironside (Total Recall)
Steve Sandor (The Yellow Rose)
Joseph Bologna (Big Daddy)
Bruce Weitz (Half Past Dead)
Victor Brandt (The Batman)
Mike Farrell (Patch Adams)
Shelley Fabares (Coach)
Joanna Cassidy (Blade Runner)
Michael Dorn (Star Trek: TNG)
Sherman Howard (Superboy)
Carolyn Seymour (Congo)
Nicholle Tom (Gotham)
Edward Asner (Elf)
Scott Menville (Teen Titans)
Diane Delano (Jeepers Creepers 2)
Andrea Martin (My Big Fat Greek Wedding)
Diane Michelle (Robotech: The Movie)
Clyde Kusatsu (Midway)
Peri Gilpin (Frasier)
William H. Macy (Fargo)
Peter Gallagher (The Gifted)
Dennis Haysbert (24)
Gregg Berger (Transformers)
Kevin Conroy (Batman: TAS)
Mathew Valencia (The New Batman Advntures)
Roddy McDowall (Planet of The Apes)
John Glover (Smallville)
Paul Williams (Smokey and The Bandit)
Henry Silva (Above The Law)
Bob Hastings (The Poseidon Adventure)
Charity James (Space Jam)
Corey Burton (Critters)
Jason Priestley (Tru Calling)
Jason Marsden (Hocus Pocus)
Chad Lowe (Unfaithful)
Melissa Joan Hart (No GOod Nick)
Joely Fisher (The Mask)
Bud Cort (Harold and Maude)
Townsend Coleman (The Tick)
Tress MacNeille (Futurama)
Gilbert Gottfried (Critters: A New Binge)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight)
Ron Perlman (Hellboy)
Carl Lumbly (Supergirl)
Sarah Douglas (Superman 1 & 2)
Ted Levine (The Silence of The Lambs)
Michael P. Greco (Bleach)
George Dzundza (Crimson Tide)
Peter Mark Richman (Defenders of The Earth)
Melissa Disney (Superman vs The Elite)
Malcolm McDowell (Star Trek: Generations)
Billy West (Futurama)
Stephen Root (Barry)
Miguel Sandoval (Medium)
Brian George (The Big Bang Theory)
David Warner (Tron)
Olivia Hussey (Black Christmas)
Michael Horse (Roswell)
Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Hot Shots)
Jeff Bennett (Enchanted)
Lisa Edelstein (House)
Charles Napier (The Silence of The Lambs)

3447328-absolute-powerSuperman is everywhere. He’s also been everywhere; for nearly seventy years now the character has been inspiring us with his tales of heroism, adventure, and fantasy. Seventy years is a long time and with a character as popular as Superman it equates to a lot of different interpretations. From the original comic books to a radio series to a handful of television shows, it seems that the Last Son of Krypton has done it all. We are very lucky then to have these DVDs, because in all of that time, throughout all the years, the stories found in Superman: The Animated Series are his best. The fifty-four cartoon episodes (spread across three boxed sets) that make up the complete run of Superman: The Animated Series aren’t just the best take on the character because they’re faithful. Nor is it because they’re animated, for all ages, or very imaginative. It’s for all of these reasons. And several more.3447300-little_big_head_manThe creative team behind the series has plundered the rich mythology of the character and come up with a fantastic take on each and every piece of the Superman universe. For starters, their Clark Kent and Lois Lane interpretation is spot-on. Clark isn’t too much of a goof, nor is he too simple. Similarly, Lois is fiery, funny, and lovely. Seeing the characters come together at the end of Legacy, Part 2 makes for a great cathartic moment. Superman has saved Lois a countless number of times, it is only fitting then that Lois save him when he needs it. The main arc of this season borrows from the comic book universe and brings Darkseid and his homeworld to the forefront. Hinted at earlier in the show, it’s in this third volume that the Lord of Apokolips finally gets his payoff – and his payback. In a trio of two-parters, Apokolips… Now!, Little Girl Lost, and Legacy, Superman fights one of his most ruthless foes in a series of episodes that offer some excellent action, drama, and science fiction fun.maxresdefault (1)While these episodes are very faithful to the mythos, we’ve also got a great selection of original stories that go to prove that with a character like Superman, there is no limit to the stories that you can tell. One of my favorites is Knight Time. When Batman goes missing, Superman pays a visit to Gotham City and tries to find out where his friend has gone. Supes inadvertently ends up masquerading as Batman – dressing up in the Dark Knight’s costume and everything! – and teams up with Robin to solve the mystery of the missing Bruce Wayne. Not only is the episode entertaining, but it’s also got a great sense of humor. Seeing Superman do his best impersonation of Batman is wonderful – Clark doesn’t know which utility pockets contain what, and his attempts at being grim (nodding his head instead of speaking) are great.stas-legacy7Watching these shows you get the feeling that it was during this final stretch of episodes that the show’s producers were finding new ways of playing with the formula that they had designed, and perfected, with both Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series. Not only do these Superman episodes have a lot of two-parters, but we’ve also got some great guest-stars; it seems that this show is the precursor to Justice League. We’ve got heroes, Kyle Rayner from In Brightest Day, and villains, Ra’s Al Ghul in The Demon Reborn, and everyone in between – everyone’s favorite master of the sea, Aquaman in Fish Story. We also get an expansion of the Superman supporting cast when Supergirl makes a welcome appearance in the Little Girl Lost two-parter.Superman_TAS_2x27_001The animation is somewhat more limited when compared to the fancy digital effects that more modern shows exhibit, but the handcrafted style gives the show a wonderful atmosphere. If you pay close attention you’ll notice that a lot of effort has gone into the design of the animation – much more so than most animated series. The framing here is frequently packed. Helping flesh out the world are all of the voice actors; everyone from Tim Daly (as Superman/Clark) to Clancy Brown (as Lex Luthor) is perfect in his or her role. The only thing holding the show back, and this is a small point, is the fact that the stories, due to their child-friendly animated nature, are a little more limited than the best television shows tend to be. Even so, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better adventure series – animated or live action.Superman_meets_SupergirlIn one of the episodes found in this collection, Superman pays his final respects to a recently departed friend. In the graveyard, Superman comes to realize something very important: “In the end, the world didn’t really need a Super man. Just a brave one.” This show gives us a character who is both brave and super. It gives us a real hero. It gives us Superman… as good as he’s ever been.

REVIEW: JURASSIC PARK III

CAST

Sam Neill (The Piano)
William H.Macy (The Cooler)
Téa Leoni (Ghost Town)
Alessandro Nivola (The Eye)
Trevor Morgan (The Glass House)
Michael Jeter (The Fisher King)
John Diehl (Nixon)
Laura Dern (Everything Must Go)
Mark Harelik (The Big Bang Theory)
Linda Park (Star Trek: Enterprise)

Ben Hildebrand and 12-year-old Eric Kirby go parasailing around the waters of Isla Sorna. An unknown creature attacks and kills the boat crew, forcing Ben to detach the line; he and Eric drift towards the island. On the mainland, Dr. Alan Grant has become famous after his involvement at Jurassic Park, while Ellie Sattler is married and has two children. Grant discusses with Sattler how raptors are far more intelligent than they had previously believed. At a dig site, Grant’s assistant, Billy Brennan, demonstrates how he can use a 3D printer to replicate a Velociraptor larynx.

Paul and Amanda Kirby, a seemingly wealthy couple, offer Grant funding for his research if he will give them an aerial tour of Isla Sorna. Desperate for research support, Grant reluctantly agrees. He flies there along with Paul, Amanda, Billy, and the Kirbys’ mercenary associates, Udesky, Cooper, and their pilot Nash. On the plane, Grant learns that the Kirbys actually plan to land on the island. When Grant opposes, he is knocked out by Cooper and wakes to the sound of Amanda using a megaphone. This attracts a Spinosaurus, which devours Cooper and Nash, and causes the plane to crash into the forest. Fleeing, the survivors briefly lose the Spinosaurus, only to encounter a Tyrannosaurus rex. The Spinosaurus returns, but the group escapes while the two carnivores fight each other. The Spinosaurus overpowers the T. rex and kills it.

Grant learns the Kirbys are actually a middle-class divorced couple, who are looking for their son Eric, and Amanda’s boyfriend Ben, who have been missing on the island for eight weeks. Later, the group finds the parasail with Ben’s corpse attached. The group takes the parasail, and then encounter raptor nests. They find an abandoned InGen compound, where Amanda is ambushed by a raptor. The group manages to trap it, but it escapes and contacts the rest of its pack. The group flees into a herd of Corythosaurus and Parasaurolophus, causing a stampede, separating Grant and Udesky from the others. Grant retrieves Billy’s satchel, while Udesky is killed by the raptors.

Grant suspects the raptors are searching for something, while observing two of them communicating. He is then ambushed and cornered by the raptors, but is rescued by Eric, who managed to survive in an overturned water truck. The next day, Grant and Eric hear Paul’s satellite phone ringing and are reunited with the Kirbys and Billy. Paul explains that he gave the phone to Nash before he was devoured, before the group is attacked by the Spinosaurus. After the group escapes, Grant discovers Billy took two raptor eggs to use for funding, which provoked the raptor attacks. He decides to keep the eggs to ensure the group’s survival. The group unknowingly enters a large aviary used to house Pteranodons, which attack the group and fly away with Eric. Billy rescues Eric by using Ben’s parasail, but is then attacked and seemingly killed by the Pteranodons. The rest of the group escapes the aviary, unintentionally leaving the door unlocked. They make their way downriver using a boat.

That night, the group hears the phone ringing buried in the faeces of the Spinosaurus and retrieves it. As rain falls, Grant tries to contact Sattler, but the Spinosaurus attacks the boat. Grant and Paul scare it off by setting the boat’s fuel on fire. The next day, the group makes their way towards the shoreline, but are surrounded by the raptors once again. The eggs are surrendered to the raptors, while Grant uses the replicated raptor larynx to confuse the pack, who run off with the eggs. The group flees to the coast and find that Sattler had called in the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy to rescue them. They discover that Billy, while seriously injured, is still alive. As they leave the island, they see the Pteranodons flying free, and Grant muses they are looking for new nesting grounds.Overall though, “Jurassic Park 3” is well-acted, generally passably written (by “Election”‘s Alexander Payne and two other writers) and offers up just what it says it will – 90 minutes of solid thrills, well-staged and consistently exciting. It certainly won’t go down as one of best films films, but I definitely thought it was  most entertaining.

REVIEW: HIT ME

CAST

Elias Koteas (Crash)
Laure Marasc (Interview With The Vampire)
Jay Leggett (Another Day In Paradise)
Bruce Ramsey (Killing Zoe)
Kevin J. O’ Connor (Van Helsing)
Philip Baker Hall (Bruce Almighty)
William H. Macy (The Closer)
Jack Conley (L.A. Confidential)

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Based on Jim Thompson’s ‘A Swell Looking Babe’, ‘Hit Me’ is about a bellhop – Sonny – getting involved in a scheme to steal $500,000 from high-end, illegal poker players. The swell looking babe is a French girl, Monique, and Sonny thinks his share of the money will allow him to start a new life with her. That isn’t going to come easily. Monique is unreliable, hooked up with the criminals, and has suicidal tendencies. The path of love never does run smooth, does it? As in the book, Sonny is an interesting character, fuelled by three elements – his love of Monique, his hatred of his job, and his refusal to accept help to care for his disabled brother, Leroy. Sonny is over his head in it all, and once the heist goes pear-shaped, he’s frantically scraping around to try a make it clear.MSDHIME EC001Elias Kotsas does a decent job playing Sonny. He looks a lot like Robert De Niro and effectively gets across one of De Niro’s big skills – playing desperate psychosis. At times this can veer into comedy, and it’s unclear whether this is always intentional. Kotsas acts emotions very physically – mock-humping the air before he goes into Monique’s room and pepping himself up by jumping through four different positions before meeting the main poker player. As in Thompson’s novels, ‘Hit Me’ presents a world where no character can be trusted. Even the “good guy” – Sonny – is as shady and money grabbing as the rest, at one stage happily considering becoming a cocaine dealer. It’s film noir taken to its limits… not in terms of visual style but in terms of characterisation.image-w448Stacked up against the beautiful economy of Mamet’s ‘Heist’ or Tarantino’s ‘Reservoir Dogs’, ‘Hit Me’ does drag a little and doesn’t have quite enough twists and turns to merit lasting over two hours. And, whilst shot cleanly and effectively, it lacks cinematic impact. However, there’s a nice undercurrent of philosophising over the nature of survival and, whether you’re a Thompson fan or not, you could do worse than checking out this interesting little movie.

REVIEW: THE SESSIONS


CAST

John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone)
Helen Hunt (As Good as It get)
William H. Macy (Jurassic Park 3)
Moon Bloodgood (Terminator: Salvation)
Annika Marks (Grace)
Adam Arkin (Halloween: H20)
Rhea Perlman (Cheers)
W. Earl Brown (Bates Motel)
Robin Weigert (Deadwood)
Rusty Schwimmer (Highlander 2)

In Berkeley, California in 1988, Mark O’Brien is a poet who is forced to live in an iron lung due to complications from polio. Due to his condition, he has never had sex. After unsuccessfully proposing to his caretaker Amanda, and sensing he may be near death, he decides he wants to lose his virginity. After consulting his priest, Father Brendan, he gets in touch with Cheryl Cohen-Greene, a professional sex surrogate. She tells him they will have no more than six sessions together. They begin their sessions, but soon it is clear that they are developing romantic feelings for each other. Cheryl’s husband, who loves her deeply, fights to suppress his jealousy, at first withholding a love poem that Mark has sent by mail to Cheryl, which she eventually finds. After several attempts, Mark and Cheryl are able to have mutually satisfying sex, but decide to cut the sessions short on account of their burgeoning feelings.

One day sometime later, the power goes out in the building in which Mark lives, causing the iron lung to stop functioning and making it necessary for Mark to be rushed to the hospital. However, he survives and meets Susan Fernbach, a young woman with whom the audience senses he will finally find happiness. The film then cuts to Mark’s funeral, held sometime later, and attended by four of the women he came to know and care for, including Cheryl. Father Brendan gives the homily and Susan reads the poem he had previously sent Cheryl.As a whole, the film doesn’t shy away from much. The sex “therapy” sessions are depicted as realistically as possible and are both funny and touching. Ben Lewin’s direction is simple yet it manages to adequately depict O’Brien’s world without sensationalizing it. It’s an all round simple tale that is well told. This is an adult drama that will make you laugh, cry and look more positively at your own life. There aren’t many films that do that these days.

REVIEW: MYSTERY MEN

CAST

Ben Stiller (Zoolander)
Hank Azaria (Godzilla)
William H. Macy (Jurassic Park 3)
Janeane Garofalo (Wet Hot American Summer)
Kel Mitchell (Kenan & Kel)
Wes Studi (Avatar)
Greg Kinnear (A Few Good Men)
Paul Reubens (Gotham)
Geoffrey Rush (The King’s Speach)
Lena Olin (Alias)
Eddie Izzard (Hannibal)
Artie Lange (Rescue Me)
Claire Forlani (Mallrats)
Tom Waits (The Book of Eli)
Gerry Becker (Angel)
Monet Mazur (rageing Angels)
Marie Matiko (Xena)
Dane Cook (Good Luck Chuck)
Doug Jones (Hellboy)
Ricky Jay (Flashforward)
Ned Bellamy (Terminator: Tscc)
Michael Chieffo (Roswell)
Sung Kang (Fast & Furious)
Stacey Travis (Ghost World)
Jack Plotnick (Z Nation)
Dana Gould (The Simpsons)

In the metropolis of Champion City, the would-be superhero team of Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller), the Shoveler (William H. Macy), and the Blue Raja (Hank Azaria) attempt to make a name for themselves, but their suspect skills make them ineffective, and they find themselves upstaged by the city’s most successful superhero, Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear). However, Amazing is finding that his effectiveness at fighting crime has practically made his job obsolete, and without any worthy adversaries remaining (some of them are either dead, in exile, or still in jail), his corporate sponsors are beginning to pull their funding. To create a need for himself, Amazing uses his alter ego, billionaire lawyer Lance Hunt, to argue for the release of insane supervillain Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush). The plan backfires; once reunited with Tony P (Eddie Izzard) and his Disco Boys, Casanova Frankenstein blows up the insane asylum, captures Amazing, and prepares to unleash a doomsday device: the “Psycho-frakulator”, which lethally bends reality. Mr. Furious, while spying on Casanova Frankenstein’s mansion, discovers Amazing’s capture and informs the others.

After an unsuccessful rescue attempt, the three realize they need more allies, and through word-of-mouth and try-outs, they recruit Invisible Boy (Kel Mitchell), the Spleen (Paul Reubens), and the Bowler (Janeane Garofalo). The newly formed team “assaults” Casanova, which only succeeds in annoying him and damaging his car. While drunk from celebrating their victory, the team is nearly killed in retaliation by Tony P and the Disco Boys, but they are saved at the last minute by the Sphinx (Wes Studi). The Sphinx trains them, but his methods annoy Mr. Furious – he has them complete rote team-building exercises and speaks exclusively in Chiasmus. They also seek out mad scientist Doc Heller (Tom Waits), who specializes in non-lethal weaponry, to equip them for their battle.
Mystery Men (1999)
The group breaks into Casanova’s mansion during a gathering of several of the city’s gangs; but, while attempting to free Captain Amazing, they inadvertently set off the Psycho-frakulator, killing him instead. Without Amazing, the team despairs of saving the city, but the Shoveler delivers a pep-talk that succeeds in uniting and inspiring them.
Mystery Men (1999)
With new-found purpose, they assault the mansion and, by making effective use of their negligible superpowers and Heller’s weapons, manage to subdue most of Casanova Frankenstein’s henchmen. Unfortunately, as the heroes approach Casanova Frankenstein, he reveals that he is holding Mr. Furious’ girlfriend Monica (Claire Forlani) hostage, and proceeds to activate the Psycho-frakulator, which begins to wreak havoc upon the city. While the team tries to stop the device, Mr. Furious takes on Casanova Frankenstein. After initially taking a beating, Mr. Furious unleashes his inner rage and manages to fight effectively for the first time. He defeats Casanova Frankenstein, who is thrown into the core of the Psycho-frakulator and killed by its reality-bending powers. The rest of the team helps The Bowler use her bowling ball to destroy the device and escape the mansion as it implodes.
Mystery Men (1999)
The team is interviewed by reporters, begging to know their team name. As they argue among themselves, one reporter states “Well, whatever you may call them, Champion City will forever owe a debt of gratitude to these ‘Mystery Men’,” but the others are too busy arguing to hear it.

Mystery Men (1999)

The casting is perfect. Ben Stiller as Mr. Furious, William H. Macy as the Shoveler, Paul Reubens as the Spleen, Janeane Garofalo as the Bowler, Hank Azaria as the Blue Raja, Kel Mitchell as Invisible Boy and Wes Studi as the Sphinx. They all played it straight, which was what sold it given that they’re really ridiculous characters and made you feel for these guys and cheer them on as they bumbled their way through their adventure.  It’s just simply fun.

REVIEW: THE HEIST (aka THE MAIDEN HEIST)

CAST

Christopher Walken (The Prophecy)
Morgan Freeeman (The Dark Knight Rises)
William H. Macy (The Cooler)
Joseph McKenna (Shutter Island)
Wynn Everett (Agent Carter)
Marcia Gay Harden (Mystic River)
Breckin Meyer (Road Trip)

Roger (Christopher Walken) is a security guard at an art museum who is only rarely in motion, opting rather to stare at his favorite painting, The Lonely Maiden, a beautiful woman staring forlornly out into the distance. Despite the fact he has a wife, Rose (Marcia Gay Harden), he’s become rather obsessed with the painting. Rose wants Roger to retire so they can move to Florida. One afternoon, Roger learns that several pieces including The Lonely Maiden are to be permanently moved to another museum in Copenhagen, Denmark. Unable to follow the maiden, Roger falls into despair until he meets Charles (Morgan Freeman), another guard who has a similar attraction to a painting on another floor of a woman with cats.

George (William H. Macy) is also obsessed with a piece of art, a nude sculpture of a Greek warrior; he often strips down and poses naked beside it during his night shift. Using the advantages between their shifts and experience, George comes up with the idea to steal their favorite works of art and replace them with replicas. Roger volunteers to tag the artworks being shipped, while Charles and George seek assistance in replicating their favorites. Because Charles is a painter, he’s able to do the cat painting perfectly, but he fails in capturing The Lonely Maiden. The men hire a street artist (Breckin Meyer) for that task, forcing Roger to steal Rose’s Florida vacation savings to pay for the job. Rose becomes suspicious and nearly ends up having Roger taken off the volunteer staff. George manages to replicate “his” sculpture and the Maiden copy is also completed.

On the day of the switch, George sneaks into the warehouse in the crate with the statue. He successfully swaps the three marked pieces, but can’t resist stripping down and posing with the statue. A guard shows up, forcing George to hide in the crate without his clothes. The next morning, when Roger and Charlie (with the unwitting accompaniment of Rose) come to collect him, the crate containing George ends up in the wrong van. A panic-stricken Charlie gives chase, and they manage to successfully rescue George, who emerges from the shipping crate unclothed, much to Rose’s shock.

Having pulled off the heist without getting caught, they retire from their jobs and Rose is none the wiser. On a trip to Florida, Roger is enthralled by Rose as she looks out over the ocean because she strikingly resembles the Lonely Maiden pose. Their love life is rekindled. Meanwhile, the three men hide their treasures in a shack on Charles’ apartment roof so that they can go and view them at their leisure. However, when Roger looks at the painting, it doesn’t inspire him like it once did. He smiles and remembers his wife. Meanwhile, in Copenhagen, a guard on duty passes a painting and looks at it, smiling.

This is just light, funny entertainment, and there are lots of funny scenes. They are all good, but my favorite is Walken, who is a master comic even though he is more known for his tough guy roles. A very enjoyable movie.