Archive for the U Category

Unthinkable (2010) Gregor Jordan

Posted in U on May 5, 2011 by moviemoses

A nuclear bomb expert now turned Muslim extremist Young (Michael Sheen) sends a video to the CIA. He claims to have planted three nuclear bombs in three cities and if the President does not meet his demands (a public statement he is going to move armed forces from the Middle East) they are going to detonate within two days. FBI agent Helen Brody (Carrie-Anne Moss) is the head of investigating the location of the bombs. The military captured Young and have hired a shadow figure/interrogator named “H” (Samuel L. Jackson) to get the location from Young using any and all means.

This movie is an extended “what would you do” when it comes to torture. Jordan tries to lay out the perfect “ticking time bomb” scenario and repeatedly asks you how far you would be willing to go to get information. The levels of torture go up from approved methods like waterboarding up to beatings, to amputations, to electro shock, to mutilation, and all the way to torturing Young’s family (the titular UNTHINKABLE). At each stage Sam Jackson all but stares into the camera and asks “Should I keep going?”

The Ticking Bomb Scenario (also known as the Jack Bauer Scenario) is a favorite among people who argue for torture. Most everyone would agree that torture is not an accurate means of getting information from a suspect and that other means can be used to much greater effect. Torture is barbaric, goes against our core beliefs, and again, doesn’t seem to yield as good information as other intelligence gathering/investigation would yield. So the situation has to be altered in order to be more acceptable for people to swallow. Much like Unthinkable, the situation gets more elaborate and nonsensical the more you go on. What if you were on a timer? What if there was a nuclear bomb that was about to go off? How about three? How about four!? What if we had the person who made and planted them AND had plenty of time to torture/interrogate as to the whereabouts of the bombs? What if he acted alone so there is no chance of co-conspirators moving the bombs or detonating prematurely if the detect police presence? Do you see how far the writers already have to bend backwards to make this the slightest bit credible?

Even with all that, I could still spend all day dissecting all the plot holes of this movie. Why did Young surrender himself to the authorities? This is not explained. It could be argued it was to confront his oppressors but that just doesn’t fly. What if the torture did work? His overall plans would have been ruined. To make Americans feel ashamed about torture. No, since Young was squirrelled away in some dark hole where no one knew about him. The real answer is they did it for plot convenience. How can this guy make four nuclear bombs? Oh (the movie answers) he is a nuclear bomb expert who turned into a Muslim extremist, stole 18 pounds of nuclear materials as well as millions of dollars from Iranian terrorists. Oooooooooookay, I respond, then why wasn’t every intelligence agency keeping a very close eye on this person who was living with his wife and children in suburban LA? I mean, you would think you would keep tabs on people that have the means and the motive to make and use a nuclear bomb right? I think we would notice this guy shipping 18 pounds of nuclear material, making four bombs, and setting them up all across the country. “Uhhhhhhhh”, the writer replies, “the reason for that is…we wouldn’t have a movie then if people acted in a rational way.” Young then gives his demands. He wants the President to make a public address stating he wants to move troops out of the Middle East. Everyone shoots down that idea because we don’t negotiate with terrorists blah blah blah. Hey, how bout this? How about you stage a fake press conference in which you have the President make this address and then play this for him on TV? You could get some top notch filmmakers to make it seem genuine. No? Oh that would make too much sense. I could go on but you get the gist. The Ticking Bomb Scenario is a myth, and any attempt to construct one reveals how truly implausible it really is.

Now for as much as I just dissected this movie I can’t say I hated it. I was interested in what was happening throughout and it doesn’t hurt to have people like Sam Jackson and Michael Sheen delivering your over the top dialog. And I suppose you could argue this movie does provoke thought on the subject even though it is ham fisted. I know a lot of people are going to be put off by the fact there are many scenes of torture in this movie. While there is a lot of torture, we don’t really see much on camera. That being said, I have heard many complain that it is too intense.

As far as direct-to-video fare goes, this is one of the better entries. The movie is expertly produced with a decent script (okay riddled with holes but not annoyingly bad), and all around good acting. Ultimately this comes down to the taste of the person potentially renting this movie. This movie could be too intense or too preachy a subject for people to spend a night watching. I suppose I’m being somewhat nice because these DTV movies usually suck and this is competently done. So take that for what it is.

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Up In The Air (Jason Reitman) 2009

Posted in U on May 3, 2011 by moviemoses

We follow Ryan Bingham as his job is that of a mercenary hatchetman.  He is brought in by companies too chicken shit to fire their own guys and he comes in to fire them but also to soften the blow.  Being fired is one of the most traumatic scenarios and Ryan really does a lot to comfort people without being patronizing.  Ryan spends most of his time in the air and because of his job he actually feels great in the isolation of being in the air.  His job is threatened when a newcomer has an idea to terminate people by computer/phones instead of wasting money flying people around.  Ryan convinces the boss to take her around and show her it’s not as easy as saying “You’re fired” over a conference call.

You know, I actually saw this a week ago but I had real difficulty finding anything to say on it.  Walking out of the theater I thought to myself it was good but I couldn’t really come up with anything really remarkable or something to really hit me as a powerful movie.  But you know, even after a week I still kind of contemplate it and thinking about it and I realize this would be a movie I would own and see several times.

This is not a movie that will have big knockout jokes or have you rolling in the aisles or even be so emotionally manipulative as to have you crying in the end.  I guess it would be more fair to say this is a subtle and earnest film that actually has more power than doing anything in the former categories.  Because it’s more neutral and contemplative we can have the powerful dramatic moments and contrast it with subtle humor which is actually funnier than a joke with a big punch line.  While you are not laughing like in say Juno, I did find myself amused the whole way through and I didn’t feel as if I was being jerked around when the really serious moments came up.

As I mentioned with Sherlock Holmes, it is almost a given George Clooney gives a great performance.  He can play the perfect dick but also be dramatic and show the tortured side of Ryan.  Anna Kendrick is also good as the stuck up new girl who is more in over her head than she knows.  The person that almost steals the show is Vera Farmiga.  She is almost the female version of Ryan and she is wonderful in how she really beats Ryan at her own game.

While this movie is about the current economic crises and how bad it sucks to be fired, it’s not all that depressing.  It kind of has the same effect as Ryan where you see what’s going on, you get some encouragement it’s not that bad, and how you have an entire support structure to fall back on like your family/significant other/friends that soften the blow.  It sucks, but we are going to get through it.  This was an enjoyable movie.  It is a movie that really shows its skills in its subtlety and cleverness.


Universal Soldier: Regeneration (John Hyams) 2010

Posted in U on April 14, 2011 by moviemoses

This is the second sequel to the Universal Soldier series.  There were some tv movies made (without any of the original cast) but I am focusing on the movies.  To be honest, I don’t remember squat from Universal Soldier 2 (in fact I should re-review it for my bomb thread).  All I remember from it was it had Bill Goldberg in it and it sucked.  However I have said before JCVD has turned his career around in later years and is actually a fine actor (still strange using that word).  I would even go so far as to say I like as many of his DTV movies and the movie JCVD as I like his early stuff like Bloodsport and Timecop and Universal Soldier.

So the plot of this one is rather simple: a group of Russian terrorists have captured Chernobyl and some politician’s children for hostages.  In a few days they will detonate the nuclear reactor unless they release political prisoners.  To make matters worse, the entrenched terrorists have a rogue Unisol (played by former UFC fighter Andrei Arlovski) on their side.  The US and Soviet army try to infiltrate the base but they are beat back by Arlovski.  In desperation they go to the one man that can kill Arlovski…Fedor.  Unfortunately he is busy wrestling bears so they go back to Luc (Jean Claude Van Damme) to try to get him to come back for one more mission.

For being a direct to video movie, this was excellent.  Now JCVD is really only in it for about half the running time (maybe more) and that could be a tad disappointing.  But I realize that he is getting old and he can’t carry a movie the whole time.  With Wake of Death and other DTV stuff, he relies more on an ensemble cast and for the most part it works.  You still get plenty of JCVD action scenes and I have to say the man still has it.  This is not like Steven Seagal where you laugh at that tub of lard try to slap fight his way through bad guys.  Van Damme is still in incredible shape and just as fast.

Arlovski does a good job since all he really has to do is be silent and kick ass.  He is practically playing the new Dolph Lundgren role.  Speaking of, Dolph is in this movie too but for a short time.  While he has a limited role, Lundgren and Van Damme have a fight scene which put most fight scenes today to shame and really sold the movie for me.

If I had to gripe (and I must) it is that the story is REALLY simple.  There is no advancement of the story of Luc as a whole.  In fact, we seem to have regressed in his character.  I seem to remember in Universal Soldier 2 that Luc was a rather well adjusted, normal, and healthy man after the events of one.  In this movie though he has problems with long term memory, is anti social, prone to random fits of extreme violence, and is one step away from being catatonic.  What the hell happened in between 2 and 3 to make him a basket case?  The movie’s story is just so basic as to say there is a crisis, they need Luc, they get Luc, and Luc f*cks people’s sh*t up.  That’s it; the very bare bones to get from one action scene to another.  Which isn’t horrible by no means but it’s strange that we return to this series after so long and really have nothing new to say.  Even the new Rambo had a somewhat new direction for the character despite also having a stripped down plot.

That is a minor quibble though.  I really did like this movie.  It is a very pleasant surprise you get this talented (and good looking) direct to video movie.  It is so good you almost wonder why it didn’t get a limited release; especially after JCVD.  But check it out if you are a fan of Jean Claude. Highly recommended.

Unrivaled (Warren Sonoda) 2010 Part One

Posted in U on September 28, 2010 by moviemoses

It’s rare to find cinematic schlock these days quite like the movies Hector Echavarria churns out.  Most of the direct to DVD movies that come out are usually so bland and dull that it’s not worth the bit space on the internet.  But these movies are so horribly bad and Echavarria’s ego is so outrageous that it’s just glorious.  I’ve never seen such whoring of a sports entertainment medium since WWE: Big Apple Takedown; the book where WWE superstars are in fact secret agents for the CIA.

The first two movies in the series, Never Surrender and Death Warrior, are practically the same movie but uniquely shitty in their own ways.  Both movies star Echavarria as an MMA supergod who somehow gets caught up in the world of illegal cage fighting.  Apparently rich consortiums have nothing better to do than to kidnap UFC’s greatest stars and making them fight to the death.  Ever wonder why Fedor takes so much time in between fights?

Before these movies I have never even heard of this ass clown.  The only thing I could really get from his IMDb was a guest appearance on the Miami Vice TV show.  So how does a guy like this get to make movie after movie which seemingly fail but continue to prop his ego?  Well after an exhaustive and thorough search (of Wikipedia) he is apparently is to South America what David Hasselhoff is to Germany.  He was at one time a world kickboxing champion and master of many different styles of martial arts.  Many sports magazines and even NBC’s Extra called him the soon to be breakout action star of the 21st Century.  His movies and TV shows (which he produces) break records down there and he also has comic strips, trading cards, action figures, and other collectibles.  So remember everyone: Germans love David Hasselhoff and South Americans love Hector Echavarria.  But enough of this rambling and actually dig into the latest (I dare not call it the last) entry of Echavarria MMA films.

So apparently Hector learned his lesson that making your main character completely unbeatable smug prick does not win over your audience.  Here it is quite apparent from the first five minutes the pendulum has swung and Hector is now playing an amalgam of Ram Jam from The Wrestler and Rocky Balboa.  We see him in some dump of a fight club basically fighting for whatever loose change is scraped off the floor.  His first opponent is Nate “The Great” Marquardt. Hector’s fighter is still very good and Nate can only win by cheating.  Nate grabs a piece of metal, wraps it around his fist and proceeds to beat Hector about the face so many times it looks like Bruce Willis turning Nick Stahl’s face into yellow goo.  What’s funny is the ref is directly looking at it and lets the match continue.  And I thought TNA refs were bad.

And just when you think Hector is trying to get serious and classy with his movies, the opening credits are nothing but shaking asses and even full frontal tit shots.  Stay classy Hector…

So the result of Hector getting wailed on by a piece of steel for ten minutes is he has a small cut above his left eye.  Hector wanders around dejected to a montage of some sappy Lisa Loeb type piece of schmaltz.  So Hector comes to work at a strip club and we get five minutes of stripping.  Nice to know we are focused on the story here.  Anyway a group of loan sharks come in and maaaaybe break Hector’s arm (its hard to tell because he sells injuries worse than John Cena) because Hector owes $20,000.  Hector has till the end of the month to pay.  More shots of tits.  Man even Showgirls took more time building a story than this movie.

Okay back to the Rocky copying.  So Hectors arm is hurt and he gets whooped in a sparring match with Keith “The Dean of Mean” Jardine and its here we meet Hector’s Mickey like mentor.  This sets up the complete underdog portion of the storyline.  Cut next to a news cast from this movie’s UFC equivalent called Torko.  Torko?  Really?  Torko?  What the hell does that mean?  Anyway we now meet Apollo Creed, I mean, Pressure Holland (played by Rashad Evans).  Apparently they are looking for an undiscovered fighter to ultimately challenge Holland.

So there is a tournament set up with the winner getting a chance to challenge the champ.  Apparently Pressure doesn’t want Hector because he is a little scared of him.  Why, I don’t know but he stacks the deck against him in the tournament.  Oh the odds are so stacked against him!  Cue the Rocky montage…set to bland pseudo Christian rock sounding crap.  We come back to one of my earlier gripes.  I won’t deny that Echavarria is in great shape for his age.  But you expect me to believe he can take on a world class fighter in his prime.  Even Rocky Balboa had the justification that Rocky was fighting someone in a lower weight class; setting up a power vs. speed match up.  Here there is no such concession.

I’ll cut through 20 minutes of useless bullshit (and for this movie that’s saying something).  So Hector…okay hold up.  I know I am using the actor’s name here instead of his character’s name.  His character’s name is Ringo.  That’s stupid.  So anyway, Hector’s first opponent is Forrest Griffen (who in this movie is apparently the brother of Nate Marquardt).  Griffen is given a pair of UFC gloves with steel inside of them and Pressure tells Griffen the refs won’t inspect them tonight. DUM DUM DUUUUUUUM!!!

So Mickey tells him the strategy to take on Forrest Griffen.  It is something he has never tried before which is why he lost.  It is called doing spin kicks and making your opponent lower his hands.  So Forrest’s corner tells him to stop taking those spin kicks and to actually punch him.  How does Hector counter Forrest’s lead fist?  He *sighs* gets him on the ground, takes Forrest’s hand and smacks him across the face with it knocking him out.  Wow.  I didn’t know the “quit hitting yourself” tactic was so effective.

Hector’s bookie is a little pissed by this victory.  See since Hector is such an underdog, that his bookie bet $100,000 that he would get his ass kicked.  So the bookie goes to Pressure saying that he owes him (why I dunno) and tells Pressure to make it up to him in the next fight with Keith Jardine.  The bookie then offers Jardine $250,000 to take a dive against Hector.  Well he doesn’t throw it and Jardine still loses.

An odd little thing I should mention about these fights.  We cut in between the action with a pair of commentators who repeatedly insult one another.  Stuff like this:

Twenty seconds can be a long time…
Yeah, that’s what your mom said last night.

Now this idea could be funny if it weren’t so out of place with the rest of the movie.  Plus, if we are doing this we need Will Farrell to play the obnoxious jackass role.  What is also funny is that in every one of these fights there are a total of 40 people in the crowd.  I understand this is a relatively low budget movie and they cut cost by only having like 40 people and the rest of the arena blacked out.  But it is still funny when people remark that it’s a “packed house” or “this event is drawing in the fans”.  I’ve seen bingo halls with more people.

So anyway the bookie is pissed that Jardine didn’t throw the match and threatens to kill him.  Which doesn’t make a damn bit of sense.  I mean, Jardine was supposed to lose, and he lost!  Unless you are really betting on when he would take a dive but I think that would take the combined efforts of both fighters to get it down that well.  So Hector fights the champion Pressure next.  Soooooo let me get this straight.  Torko is doing a nationwide tournament to find the greatest undiscovered fighter and it is only a four person bracket?  And a person can walk off the street, win two fights and get a shot at the heavyweight championship!?  Are you kidding me!? By that logic Roy Nelson should be getting a shot at the Undisputed Championship.

So the bookie wants to guarantee that Hector will lose the next match.  How do you do that?  The next logical step; ninjas.  Okay its Keith Jardine in a ski mask, but its close enough.  I mean, do you know how hard it is to contract actual ninjas for shit?  It’s damn hard fellow readers.  So Hector gets beat up and his plucky sidekick gets accidentally run over by a truck (don’t ask) putting him in a coma.

Hector is feeling dejected an Mickey comes over.  Mickey asks why Hector’s arm is broken and he says “ninjas lol”.  So Mickey decides to tell Hector a story about his mom.  Yeah a dump truck of character development just spilled over us.  So Hector’s mom was a world class MMA fighter who Mickey also trained.  Sorry, I’m calling bullshit.  Anyway, Mickey tells a story about a fight she had where she broke her leg early on and she gutted it out through an entire match.  And blah blah blah that’s what fighting is all about.  Everyone feeling good now?  No? Well tough shit; on with the movie!

Yes so a guy with a 2-300 and 1 No Contest record now has a shot at the World Heavyweight Championship.  Mickey says Hector doesn’t have a prayer.  Gee, thanks for the moral support Mickey.  Mickey does offer advice in that he heard something “on the street” that Pressure had a lot of concussions on his left side.  Um, you can have localized concussions?  Whatever.  Anyway the advice is punch him a lot.  Again, thanks Mickey.

Oh, and why was Pressure so scared to face Hector?  Never answered.

Hector vs. Rashad Evans.  Here is the fight; I’ll boil it down for you.  Rashad throws several punches and Hector lowers his hands to take them.  Hector then throws several punches and Rashad lowers his hands to take them.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  Is it really that hard to stage realistic matches?  This is Mixed Martial Arts we are showing, not curling.

So Hector’s arm gets dislocated in the fight.  Everyone wants him to quit but he fights on just like his mother.  GET IT!  GET IT!?  *hits audience over the head with a clown hammer*  This could only get more schmaltzy if he sees his dead mother…OH F*CK YOU MOVIE!!!  GODDAMMIT!  PIECE OF SHIT MOTHERFU–

*ten minutes of profanity later*

*sighs* Okay, I’m calm.  I am calm now.  So Hector becomes the new Torko champion, comic relief comes out of his coma, bookie gets whacked, Hector gets the hot stripper love interest, and we are played out by more pseudo Christian rock.

This movie blows.  It is even worse than Death Warrior or Never Surrender.  At least there you could laugh at how over the top it was.  Here you have an legitimate attempt to cash in on Rocky and it fails worse because of it.  I’m sure you could say this completes some trilogy but I wouldn’t dare say it.  Because I’m sure in four months time I will be strolling down the aisles and seeing another one of these movies cleverly titled something like Tap Out! or The Octagon. Wait, that was a Chuck Norris movie.  Whatever.  Point is, this movie sucks.

Unhinged (Don Gronquist) 1982

Posted in U on May 19, 2010 by moviemoses

Unhinged is a video nasty about three teenagers that take a road trip to a music concert. They wreck their car, are rescued, and brought to a remote mansion in the mountains. The mansion is headed by two females, one of which has a seething hatred of men. There are also strange happenings in the house which leads the women to believe they are not alone. The women are soon picked off one by one.

The movie has some nice kills and the ending is somewhat original and entertaining. That being said, everything else about this movie blows. It is another movie that has nice ideas, but has to pad it out with about 70 minutes of sh*t to get to those parts. The acting is really the worst part as out main protagonist has a dead expression and gives flat line reads to everything no matter how shocked the character is supposed to be. There are endless shots of padding of the girls driving and wandering around that serve no purpose other than to get the run time up. No to mention the numerous plot holes all over this movie.

The one kind of saving grace of the DVD is it has a comedy commentary track by random horror writers and reviewers (none have any affiliation with Unhinged). The commentary track is actually pretty funny at times. Sometimes their jokes are lame and they don’t go anywhere (like the guys threatening to call the filmmaker and give him sh*t for directing Unhinged) but for the most part it actually made the movie entertaining. I’m still not recommending this movie, but the commentary salvaged it from being a complete piece of sh*t.