REVIEW: ACT OF VALOR

CAST

Jason Cottle (The Wedding Singer)
Rorke Denver (MeatEater)
Alex Veadov (Thirteen Days)
Roselyn Sánchez (Devious Maids)
Nestor Serrano (Runaway Jury)
Emilio Rivera (Sons of Anarchy)

In the Philippines, a terrorist kills the U.S. ambassador, his son, and dozens of children at an elementary school, using a vehicle-borne IED disguised as an ice cream truck. The mastermind, a Chechen terrorist named Abu Shabal (Jason Cottle), escapes to a training camp in Indonesia. Elsewhere in Costa Rica, two CIA operatives, Walter Ross (Nestor Serrano) and Lisa Morales (Roselyn Sánchez) meet to consolidate intelligence about their target, a drug smuggler named Mikhail “Christo” Troykovich. Christo’s men kill Ross and capture Morales, who is imprisoned in a jungle compound and tortured.At Coronado, the members of Bandito Platoon, SEAL Team Seven are at home. Lieutenant Rorke (Rorke Denver) confides to Chief Dave that his wife is pregnant and has the entire team spend time together with their families until their next deployment. A squad from the platoon consisting of Rorke, Dave, Wiemy, Mikey, Ray, Sonny, and Ajay, are then deployed to Costa Rica to exfiltrate Morales. The seven Navy SEALs insert into the jungle via HALO and hold position outside the compound all night. At dawn, they approach the compound, hear Morales being tortured, and decide to enter the compound early. Rorke and Weimy, the team sniper, provide cover for the other five, led by Dave, who conduct room-clearing, engaging several enemy guards. Mikey is shot in the head, blinding him in one eye, and knocking him unconscious, though he survives. The SEALs extract Morales, escaping with her and recovering a cellphone full of the information she had gathered. However, the gunfight alerts the enemy quick reaction force down the road, who drive toward the camp. The SEALs commandeer an enemy truck and exfiltrate. The hot pursuit forces them to revert to a tertiary extraction point where the SOC-R boats extract the team and neutralize the enemy pursuit with miniguns.Christo and Shabal, who are revealed to have been childhood friends, meet in Kiev. Christo knows the CIA is watching him and informs Shabal that subordinates will complete their project, which is to equip suicide bombers with specialized vests. On the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard, Rorke is informed that the intelligence recovered confirms Shabal and Christo were working together. Shabal, an old-school Muslim terrorist, seeks to bring jihad to the U.S., while Christo provides the routes for smuggling drugs and people into the U.S.. Ajay and Ray, are sent to Somalia, where an arms transfer involving Shabal is taking place. The remaining SEALs, comprising Rorke, Dave, Sonny and Weimy, stay in the U.S. in case the terrorists make it in. Miller himself has been reassigned to SEAL Team Four, hunting for Christo somewhere on the oceans. Lieutenant Rorke gives Dave a letter to give to his family in case he is killed.Shabal and sixteen terrorists are found to be on an island off Baja California, where the SEALs act to secure the island, killing eight terrorists. Shabal and eight others escape. Elsewhere, in the South Pacific, SEAL Team Four captures Christo and interrogate him. Christo and Shabal are found to be associates and that there is a plan to detonate vest bombs throughout the U.S., in order to cause panic and economic disruption with the goal to surpass that of the September 11 attacks. The SEALs are informed that Shabal is en route to the U.S. via tunnels underneath a milk factory, and are ordered to link up with Mexican Special Forces and neutralize the remaining targets. Arriving at the factory, the SEALs and Mexican forces launch an assault there. During the gunfight, a combatant throws a grenade, and Rorke dives on it to save his team before it detonates, killing him. Dave pursues the terrorists and shoots them as they try to escape through the tunnels. He is then shot several times and gravely wounded by Shabal, who is intercepted and killed by Sonny before he could execute Dave.At home, Rorke is given a military funeral with full honors, where the SEALs pay their respects. It is then revealed that Dave’s narration throughout the movie was a written letter meant for Rorke’s son. The film ends with a dedication to every U.S. Navy SEAL killed in action since 9/11 along with a listing of their names as well as a photo montage of other everyday public servants (soldiers, police, firefighters, etc.).Those looking for a well constructed war film should look else where. The predicable storyline and patriotic American stance will put most viewers off. However, if HD fire fights, good military realism can be taken with a pinch of salt this film does not disappoint.

REVIEW: BEST LAID PLANS (2012)

 

CAST

Stephen Graham (This Is England)
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Pompeii)
Maxine Peake (The Theory of Everything)
David O’Hara (Braveheart)

Danny (Graham) is a hustler who is about to be punished by a criminal gang-leader when he is rescued by a huge man with learning difficulties named Joseph (Akinnuoye-Agbaje). Danny and Joseph are friends, but Danny falls deeper into drugs, debt and failed money-making schemes. Eventually he persuades Joseph to begin fighting for prize money, in an effort to dissuade his criminal-world accomplices and bosses from exacting their revenge for his unpaid debts.Danny falls for a prostitute he has started to see and Joseph starts to see a mentally challenged woman who he saves from a group of teenage bullies and starts to drag himself away from the money-making fights that Danny needs him to participate in. Danny begins to question his own motives as he sees the physical damage being done to Joseph. Danny plans to escape to Ireland with Joseph, aided by his girlfriend Lisa. Unfortunately, Danny is captured and tortured to reveal Joseph’s whereabouts. Ultimately Joseph and Lisa find the location Danny is being held at and after a showdown between Joseph and one of the boss’s prize fighters and then the boss, the trio escape in a camper van, pick up Joseph’s girlfriend (Maxine Peake) and cross via ferry to Ireland as planned.The final scene shows Danny seeing Joseph genuinely happy outside playing in the snow being brought cups of tea by Lisa, through the window of the camper van where he is laid up from his injuries, then smiles, starts to bleed heavily from his mouth due to the internal injuries sustained under torture and passes away seemingly at peace.The film aims to be a simple ‘down on his luck ne’er do well trying to get out of bother’ tale, that ends up being a dark look in to how callous and predatory human instincts can be. For all this, it remains a fairly well written, ambitious film with some reliably steely lead performances from the two lead stars. It’s dogged determination to make the viewer feel a bit uncomfortable really is a blessing and a curse.

REVIEW: SAVAGES

CAST

Taylor Kitsch (John Carter)
Blake Lively (Green Lantern)
Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Nocturnal Animals)
John Travolta (The Punisher)
Benicio del Toro (Guardians of The Galaxy)
Salma Hayek (Dogma)
Demián Bichir (The Heat)
Sandra Echeverría (The Secret Life of Pets)
Emile Hirsch (alpha Dog)
Joaquín Cosío (Hot Pursuit)
Mia Maestro (Alias)
Shea Whigham (Agent Carter)
Joel David Moore (Julia X)
Trevor Donovan (Takers)
Ali Wong (American Housewife)
Leonard Roberts (Mom)

Best friends Chon (Taylor Kitsch) and Ben (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) are marijuana growers in Laguna Beach, California. Chon, a former Navy SEAL, smuggled the seeds for the plants out of Afghanistan. Ben, a University of California, Berkeley graduate in business and botany, cultivates the marijuana. The seeds yield a particularly potent strain, which develops a wide customer base. Chon and Ben become wealthy, and Ben devotes time and money to charity work in Africa and Asia. They are both openly in a relationship with Ophelia Sage (Blake Lively).The trio receives a video from Mexican drug-cartel enforcer Miguel “Lado” Arroyo (Benicio del Toro) of severed heads and a chainsaw, and Arroyo demands a meeting at which the cartel offers a partnership. Although Chon and Ben offer to hand over their network and get out of the business, the cartel wants their expertise and insists on a partnership. Chon and Ben make plans with Ophelia to go to Indonesia for a year, not telling her that they are fleeing the cartel. They speak to corrupt DEA agent Dennis Cain (John Travolta), who is on the take from them and who urges them to join the cartel. Ophelia is kidnapped by Lado’s gang; Chon and Ben are notified of the kidnapping by a video call from cartel leader Elena Sánchez (Salma Hayek), who threatens to harm Ophelia if they decline the partnership.They discuss the situation with Dennis, who tells them that Elena is facing the loss of her political connections in Mexico (foiling her efforts to move into the US). Since she has already lost most of her family, Dennis says that he has nothing on her that can help them. Chon stabs Dennis in the hand and demands DEA intelligence so they can attack Elena. With help from Chon’s Navy SEAL friends, he and Ben attack a cartel money convoy and kill seven of Elena’s men.Ophelia, held in horrible conditions, demands to speak to whoever is in charge. Lado drugs and rapes her in retaliation for going over his head. Elena, traveling to the US to visit her daughter and deal with the escalating situation, has Ophelia brought with her. Chon and Ben frame high-ranking cartel member Alex (Demián Bichir) as an agent of Elena’s rival, El Azul. With Dennis’ help, they falsify evidence and give it to Lado. Lado tortures Alex to force a confession. After Alex confesses, Lado covers him with petrol and forces Ben to ignite the petrol; Ophelia is forced to watch. Lado double-crosses Elena and begins working with El Azul.Ben and Chon pay Dennis $3 million for information about Elena’s daughter, Magda (Sandra Echeverria), and the name of his informant in Elena’s cartel. They kidnap Magda and video-call Elena to establish that they are now in control. With Elena at their mercy, they arrange a desert meeting to exchange Ophelia and Magda at which snipers from both sides are in position. Elena asks who revealed her daughter’s location, and Chon tells her it was Lado. She tries to kill Lado, but he shoots her first; a firefight erupts, and Chon is shot several times. Lado is shot in the back by Ben, but shoots him in the neck before Ophelia kills him. Ben is mortally wounded, and Chon injects him, Ophelia and himself with a fatal overdose so they can die together.Ophelia wakes from a nightmare. At the meeting, Lado steals Elena’s car and escapes as Dennis leads DEA agents to the scene. Everyone but Lado and Magda are arrested. Because Ben has incriminating information about Dennis, Dennis identifies Ben and Chon as his informants in the cartel and they are released. Elena is sentenced to thirty years in prison, and El Azul and Lado create a new cartel called the Azulados. Ben, Chon and Ophelia leave the country and live in a beachside hut, possibly in Indonesia. Ophelia wonders if they are living like savages.Savages was an excellent movie. Plain and simple. It was filled with the perfect amount of action and drama. I thought the acting was very good and the storyline was phenomenal.

 

REVIEW: IT’S COMPLICATED

CAST

Meryl Streep (The iron Lady)
Steve Martin (Cheaper By The Dozen)
Alec Baldwin (The Departed)
John Krasinki (The Office)
Lake Bell (No Strings Attached)
Mary kay Place (Being John Malkovich)
Rita Wilson (Jingle All The Way)
Hunter Parrish (Weeds)
Nora Dunn (Bruce Almighty)
Emily Kinney (Conviction)
Andrew Stewart-Jones (Gotham)
Jessica St. Clair (Bridesmaids)
Alan Cumming (Tin man)
Anne Lockhart (Buried)

Jane (Meryl Streep), who owns a successful bakery in Santa Barbara, California, and Jake Adler (Alec Baldwin), a successful attorney, divorced ten years earlier. They had three children together, two girls and a boy, who are grown. Jake, who was cheating on Jane, married the much younger Agness (Lake Bell).Jane and Jake attend their son Luke’s graduation from college in New York City. After a dinner together, the two begin an affair, which continues in Santa Barbara. Jane is torn about the affair; Jake is not. While Agness has Jake scheduled for regular sessions at a fertility clinic, Jake is secretly taking medication to increase sperm count for fertility, a side effect of which can cause dizziness. After one of his sessions he has a lunchtime rendezvous with Jane at a hotel. Jake collapses in the hotel room and a doctor is called. The doctor speculates that the reason for Jake’s distress may be the medication and says he should stop taking it. Jake and Jane’s children know nothing of the affair, but Harley (John Krasinski), who is engaged to their daughter Lauren, spots the pair and the doctor in the hotel, but keeps silent.Adam (Steve Martin) is an architect hired to remodel Jane’s home. Still healing from a divorce of his own, he begins to fall in love with Jane. On the night of Luke’s graduation party in Santa Barbara, Jane invites Adam to the party. She is stoned when he picks her up because she has smoked a marijuana joint that Jake had given her earlier. Before going into the party, Adam smokes some of the joint with Jane. Once inside, they are laughing and happily high, Jake becomes jealous observing them, and after pressing Jane, smokes some with her also.Agness then observes Jake and Jane dancing together and realizes they are having an affair. When they leave the party, Adam asks Jane if they could have something to eat. Jane takes him to her bakery and they make chocolate croissants together. Jake and Agness separate, although it is not clear who leaves whom. Eventually by a webcam in Jane’s bedroom, Adam sees Jake naked and realizes that the two have been having an affair. Adam tells Jane he cannot continue seeing her because it will only lead to heartbreak. Jane’s kids also find out, and they are not happy about Mom and Dad getting together again because they are still recovering from the divorce. Jane tells them she is not getting back with Jake. Jane and Jake talk and end their affair on amicable terms. The film ends with Adam at Jane’s house ready to commence the remodeling. Before the credits roll, Jane and Adam are seen laughing about the chocolate croissants while walking into her house.It’s Complicated couldn’t have succeeded without Nancy Meyers finally showing what good writing can do with the right people, time, and effort put into place. It’s the work of her career and she remains a dark horse for an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Though the film will definitely appeal to an older generation, the younger can appreciate the zeal and comical dialogue shared between the players. The film does run a bit long and loses some of it’s spark in the finale act, but it’s pure entertainment.

REVIEW: EXPOSED

CAST

Keanu Reeves (The Matrix)
Ana De Armas (War Dogs)
Christopher McDonald (Fanboys)
Mira Sorvino (Mimic)
Laura Gomez (Orange Is The New Black)
Michael Rispoli (Kick-Ass)

A police detective investigates the circumstances behind his partner’s death. The mysterious case leads to an attempted police cover-up and a dangerous secret involving an unlikely young woman. The two parallel story lines initially appear to have little in common, but as events gradually unfold in the two separate urban worlds, the young woman appears to somehow be involved in the detective’s demise. The dead cop was depraved and corrupt. His colleagues fear that the investigation into his death will bring these facts to light. The results would include bad press for the police department and the loss of his pension for his family. The fear is based on the fact that one of the prime suspects in the case is a young ex-convict who had allegedly been sexually molested with a broomstick wielded by Detective Cullen. Supervisors within the precinct would rather let the murderer go free than to open up a Pandora’s Box of troubles for everyone concerned.Meanwhile in Isabel’s private world, she believes that the strange beings she has begun seeing on the streets are angels. Accordingly, she thinks that her mysterious “impossible” pregnancy is a gift from God. However, nobody in her family believes her. Isabel’s “angels” are a fabrication of her own mind. She created them to accompany a fictional narrative that would replace the unbearably traumatic memories of being raped by Detective Cullen on the subway platform the night that her “visions” began. She further suppressed the memory of catching him off guard afterwards and killing him in a fit of righteous rage. The buried memories are released in an avalanche of images after a brief stay at her parents’ house triggers a sudden recollection of sexual abuse from her father many years ago.  There is a plot device employing the use of a young girl whom Isabel befriends who, it is finally revealed, is almost as imaginary as her “angels”. The girl is revealed to be Isabel as a child. She disappears from the pew in the church as Isabel prays for the strength to accept what has happened.Exposed-2016-Movie-Wallpaper-01-600x338It was very original, interestingly designed and definitely worth the watch. I was not bored at any point, and indeed intrigued. I wondered whether I was going to be let down by the story, but actually the ending was far more interesting than I imagined.

REVIEW: BAD LAND: ROAD TO FURY (THE YOUNG ONES)

CAST

Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: Apocalypse)
Michael Shannon (Man of Steel)
Elle Fanning (Super 8)
Kodi Smit-McPhee (Let Me In)
Robert Hobbs (District 9)
Aimee Mullins (Stranger Things)
Alex McGregor (Searchers)

In a post-drought apocalypse United States, people kill for water. Ernest Holm lives with his son Jerome and daughter Mary in their small townhouse and field. His wife has been involved in an accident earlier and is now permanently hospitalized in a facility where she can walk while wired to a special frame. While everyone else has left the area, Ernest and his family remain, as Ernest believes that the land will grow once more if only there is irrigation. Ernest gets water for his family by delivering supplies to the “water men” who extract water from deep wells through a government deal. When his mule breaks its legs and he has to kill it, Ernest goes to Sam Lever’s auction house and buys a robotic carrier machine called Simulit Shadow (“Sim”) to replace it, beating the offers of Flem Lever, Sam’s son, a young, troubled man who has been seeing Mary without Ernest’s consent.One morning, Ernest finds the Sim is missing, and he goes looking for it. When he gets to the water men, he is accused of stealing their supplies. He finds Flem transporting the stolen supplies with the Sim; Flem plans to sell them at the border. Ernest takes Flem captive, ties him to the machine, and aims to take the supplies back to the water men. When they stop due to dehydration, Flem convinces Ernest to rehydrate with the liquor they are transporting. Wanting to escape, Flem throws a stone at Ernest’s head and frames the machine for Ernest’s death. Flem marries Mary after helping the family obtain illegal irrigation from the water men, thus saving their farm, which was originally Flem’s father’s. But after finding out Ernest had overwhelming debts to repay to a bank, which is now going to repossess the farm, Flem tricks his friend Robbie into selling his baby behind his wife’s back. Robbie is killed and the Sim is lost in an altercation with the buyers. However, the machine returns limping and mangled to its manufacturer, who resides in a city across the border. The owner, Calvin Hooyman, reaches Jerome at the Holm residence via CB radio, informing him about the machine.Jerome crosses the border with the help of Anna, a girl who lives with the “settlers”, people fighting back against the government’s regulations and considered terrorists. Jerome meets Calvin, who gives the repaired Sim back to him, and shows Jerome how the machine’s laser sensor behaves like a rudimentary video recorder. Jerome plays the recording and finds the truth about Ernest’s death. Arriving home before Flem, Jerome questions him as to how the machine found its way home, since Flem claimed to have sold it in order to repay the debt. Flem’s lies only infuriate Jerome more, but at first he takes no action. Instead, he lures Flem out in the desert by posing as Robbie via radio and letters, ultimately causing Flem to fall into a pit trap and break his legs. As Flem cries for help, Jerome, who has been secretly following him, comes at the pit’s mouth. Flem realizes that Jerome knows about what happened to Ernest. He tries to elicit Jerome’s mercy, but Jerome coldly shoots him in the head. Jerome ultimately decides to withhold these events and the circumstances of Ernest’s death from Mary, who is pregnant with Flem’s child. Brother and sister remain in the house, planning to bring their mother there from the hospital now that they can pay for her brace wires, and wishing the baby will be a girl. A gritty film, it’s a futuristic dust bowl tale as grim as Grapes of Wrath. It’s memorable and keeps your attention, while portraying Sci-Fi in a very believable way. The mix of poverty and high technology, the extremes of the haves and have-nots, and water shortages in the US, amplifies the current state of a society as all good sci-fi films do.

REVIEW: LAST KNIGHTS

CAST

Clive Owen (Sin City)
Morgan Freeman (Momentum)
Cliff Curtis (Fear The Walking Dead)
Aksel Hennie (Hercules)
Dave Legeno (Snow White and The Huntsman)
Ayelet Zurer (Man of Steel)
Shohreh Aghdashloo (X-Men: The Last Stand)

Bartok, an ageing nobleman, watches over his estate—a vassal kingdom to a great empire. Protecting the Bartok clan is Commander Raiden and his elite soldiers, who also serve Bartok. Raiden is surprised when Bartok tells him he is to be his heir, and gives him a sword. The empire has become corrupt and the evil minister, Geza Mott, humiliates Bartok by beating him with a stick for failing to provide an adequate bribe, until Bartok retaliates — which is treason against the crown. Bartok is put to trial where he speaks openly of his disdain for what honour has become in the empire. He is sentenced to death and Raiden is ordered to execute his own master. Bartok’s estate is divided and the Bartok clan is disbanded. Geza Mott suspects Raiden will demand vengeance, and has his trusted warrior, Ito, watch Raiden to ensure there is no possibility of revenge.A year passes and Raiden is now a drunk. Geza is still highly fearful of Raiden’s wrath and demands half his father-in-law’s troops to safeguard him while he completes construction of his newly fortified estate, with more soldiers than the emperor’s own security detail. Raiden’s wife, Naomi, couldn’t bear to be with him as he had fallen so low, with Raiden even selling his sword for more drink. When Bartok’s virgin daughter is offered to Raiden in a whorehouse, he shows no concern for her but leaves the premises. Geza finally lets his guard down and stops watching Raiden. It is now revealed that Raiden and the Bartok clan soldiers sacrificed everything for the illusion of a complete defeat, and have been waiting for the right time to group and together regain the clan’s honour by avenging their master’s death.Raiden’s men have been working in secret, building up contacts and connections, and gathering intelligence about Geza’s estate – even secretly altering his estate to help them in their cause. As Raiden’s men infiltrate the estate, Auguste has secretly made a pact with Raiden to help him, in exchange for Raiden’s help to free his daughter from her marriage to Geza Mott. Geza has always mistreated Auguste’s daughter which, along with Bartok’s execution, causes Auguste to see that his vicious son-in-law has no honour. Raiden and his men successfully infiltrate Geza’s estate, are discovered, and need to face a large number of soldiers.Raiden’s men fall one by one as they enter deep into Geza’s estate. Ito takes responsibility for his complacency and duels with Raiden. Ito’s sword fails and Raiden kills him. Raiden breaks into Geza’s bedroom and decapitates him. With Geza dead, Raiden’s surviving group rescues Bartok’s daughter and tells her that Bartok’s honour is restored. When word reaches the Emperor, he discusses with his council on how to deal with Bartok’s soldiers, who caution him against the risk of turning the people against the crown. They realise that the public view Geza’s death as a righteous one, and widely support the Bartok clan. The council advises that any judgement should restore their honour, rather than make them martyrs. Raiden asks that he be the only one executed for Geza’s death.The crown publicly admits the righteousness of the Bartok clan, but also reminds the crowd that killing a high council member is still the same as an attack on the emperor and Raiden will be executed. Before his execution, Raiden charges Lt. Cortez to take control of the surviving Bartok clan. In a flashback, he sees Naomi one last time to apologize for her suffering before making peace with his own life. Raiden lowers his head with his eyes closed, and as the executioner draws his sword back, Raiden’s eyes suddenly open wide and the screen goes to black.If you’re strictly an “action” viewer, you may not enjoy this movie. But if you enjoy a good story that isn’t entirely predictable, you might just enjoy this film