Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Movie Review: The Perfect Guy (PG13 – 100 minutes)

If you didn’t see last year’s No Good Deed, in which Idris Elba not-so-randomly terrorizes Taraji P. Henson, you missed out – it was a pretty entertaining thriller.

According to gossip, the success of that movie lead to the script for the Perfect Guy getting greenlit.  It’s similar in that a woman gets not-so-randomly terrorized, and it’s also an attempt at an entertaining thriller.

Leah is a very successful lobbyist with a great house and a great man that she’s been with for two years.  She encounters a random handsome man at a coffee shop but thinks nothing else of it.  After attending a dinner party friend’s house, she watches Dave (her man) with the coworker’s son.  When they get home, she starts what seems to be a discussion they’ve had before.  She’s 36, and wants to start thinking about a family.  He states that he’s not ready for marriage and babies, and wants to propose to her when he’s ready to do it, but not because she’s demanding it.  She tells him to leave, and he does.  The next shot is her in her office 2 months later. 

She’s broken up with Dave and is feeling a little lonely and overworked.  She was going to meet up with a coworker for drinks after work, but gets bailed on.  Just as she’s getting accosted by a drunk dude at the bar, the random handsome guy pops up to save her (not sure how I felt about this scene, it’s key to setting up the story, but I wish she had been capable of defending her own honor at a bar from a drunk dude – but I suppose it sets up the story.  Again – the strong, single female seems to not exist in movies). 

That leads to her offering to buy the handsome man, Carter, a drink, which turns into a date, then several dates, then steamy sex in the bathroom of an underground reggae club – seriously.  She introduces Carter to her friends, and they are quickly taken in by how handsome and charming he is; which leads Leah to ask him to accompany her to her parents’ house for the 4th of July.  Well, he proceeds to charm the hell out of her parents too – bringing her mother flowers, and taking her father to a baseball game.  He’s even such a gentleman that he sleeps in a different room while in her parents’ and refuses to have sex with her while there.  

On the way home, they stop to get gas.  A random dude stops to appreciate his fancy car while Carter is inside buying stuff.  Leah, not knowing much about the car, recommends that the random dude check with Carter, but before he has the chance to do that – Carter grabs him and starts violently beating him.  Leah attempts to get him to stop – but only a gunshot by the convenience store owner gets him to stop.  He yells at Leah to get in the car (why she did not leave his ass at this point is beyond me – but again, the plot).  He gets in the car and drives them home – gives Leah a half-hearted apology, and she tells him it’s over.  From this point on, he gets really creepy and stalkery.  He calls and texts her almost constantly – she gets her number changed repeatedly, but he’s an IT guy, and finds several ways around that.  He non-stop sends flowers to her job.  She goes to the police, a Detective Hansen, who lets her know that there’s not much she can do, because he’s been careful to not threaten her, and hasn’t really caused problems.  He also recommends that a restraining order may antagonize him.  After he starts showing up at her job, her house, etc. she does get the restraining order, which is delivered to him as he’s interviewing for an IT job – and loses him the job, which really does antagonize him. 

Since while they were dating, she accidentally showed him where the hide-a-key was to her house, and introduced him to her neighbor, he definitely gets into her house and sets up cameras everywhere.  Meanwhile, she gets a call from Dave, who misses her and wants to start over.  She agrees – and tells Dave all about Carter.  She and Dave head out to dinner; and Carter of course, shows up at the restaurant.  Leah wants to leave, but Dave decides that he’s going to “be a man” and handle it (eyeroll).  

He goes right over to Carter and lets Carter antagonize him into threatening him.
Things get worse from there, I won’t say too much else about it – but it gets worse before it gets better.  I will spoil this – the cat does not get hurt.  I have to say, as soon as it was revealed that she had a cat, I was very concerned that the cat would get hurt – however, the cat ends up fine.  I just wanted you to know.

The movie is directed by David M. Rosenthal (Falling UP, Janie Jones, A Single Shot).  This is the first movie directed by him that I have seen.  The story didn't do much for me, I wish she had turned to defensively capable much faster than she did - but hey, the script is the script, right?  The directing is fine, but honestly, the score was distracting.  Usually in a movie, you don’t notice the score – which is the sign of a good score, it just builds on the present emotions.  In this movie, I noticed it – it felt completely out of place, and felt more like the score for a kids’ movie – like Jingle All the Way, but less Christmas-y.  The other odd thing was the time jumps.  After Leah breaks up with Dave, we get a “Two Months Later” subtitles.  But there are no other time subtitles, so there’s not really a way to tell how long she’s with Carter before splitting with him.  And then, how much time passes before she gets back with Dave?  I suppose it’s not important, but it was off-putting, because she seemed to be moving really fast with Carter, but who knows – maybe it was over several months? The actors in the movie are certainly wonderful, and they did a pretty good job with the material at hand.   

  • Sanaa Lathan (who I always refer to as “Blade’s Mom”, because that’s the first place I saw her) plays Leah, and she did a really good job.  My issues with her are with the character, so not really her fault.  It’s upsetting for me as a single woman to see a woman on screen who has everything together once again being upset because she wants “marriage and babies”.  That’s the character, and it leads to the breakup, so I get it – but honestly, it’s disappointing.  Again, the strong, single woman almost never exists in movies.  Sanaa does a great job of portraying Leah’s descent from really happy to truly terrified to aggressively determined. 

  • Michael Ealy (who in my opinion is one of the most beautiful men on the face of the earth), is really creepy as Carter – he starts out as literally the ‘perfect’ guy, however, once he takes the dark turn, he goes really dark and creepy.  Physically, he does a lot of holding his head down, but looking up – which shifts his physical appearance just a touch – and makes a difference.  He also produced this movie, which is a new turn for him.

  • Morris Chestnut plays Dave, and Dave is really a great boyfriend, just not interested in marriage and babies at the time that Leah is.  Morris Chestnut is another of the most beautiful men on the planet.  He doesn’t have to stretch much here, and if you want to see him a little more interesting (but only a little) check out the Best Man Holiday, also, be sure to watch his new show on Fox – Rosewood.

  • L. Scott Caldwell and Charles S. Dutton play Leah’s parents.  They only have one scene, and I can’t help but wonder if they shot more scenes, but were cut?  They are pretty one-note as the parents, but they help with the framework to establish Carter’s near-perfectness early on.

  • Tess Harper plays Leah’s nosy neighbor Mrs. McCarthy – she’s not quite sure about Carter from the get go – If only Leah had paid more attention to that!
  • Kathryn Morris and Rutina Wesley play Leah’s friends who help first convince her that Carter is awesome, then that she knows to go to the cops.

  • Holt McCallany, who is one of those guys you’ve seen in everything, plays Detective Hansen, who does what he can (and a few things he can’t) to help out Leah.

Overall, it’s entertaining.  I went to see it with my mom, and asked if she was happy I was single after watching it! Ha!  I will say that it was disappointing after the summer of kick-ass ladies that we had.  I would have loved Leah's character to become more kick-ass, faster than she did.  That's just not the way this story is set up.  
Along those lines - let me go off on a tangent here, there was a trailer in front of this for the new movie, Secrets in Their Eyes with Julia Roberts, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and Nicole Kidman - in the trailer, she and Ejiofor are dectives, Kidman is the D.A. They get a case where Roberts's daughter is found killed, and there's not enough evidence to put the dude away.  It then seems that 13 years pass, and Ejiofor finds him again, and he and Kidman have to work to put him away legally before Roberts straight up kills him dead.  Interesting enough - a fascinating drama - but what about this?  After her daughter's death, Roberts quits the force, and over the next 13 years, Ejiofor keeps seeing these execution-style murders come across his desk - rapists, scumbags, etc.  Someone is hunting them.  He finds the daughter's killer, and pieces it together that Roberts has been vigilante-style hunting them while searching for her daughter's killer.  He and Kidman then work together, but in the end, he lets Roberts go after she finally kills the killer.  There you have it - a heavy drama, with an action/vigilante twist.  Plus - it would give Julia Roberts something completely different to play.  Well, we'll, see - the trailer is below if you want to check it out.

6 out of 10 – Gained points for the cat being okay – seriously, I got pretty stuck on that note. Lost points for the weird score. 
Bonus Video 1:  Sleeping with the Enemy – in case you forgot about this Julia Roberts thriller from years ago.

Bonus Video 2:  The Jennifer Lopez version called Enough.

Bonus Video 3: Cast Interviews

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Movie Review: The Transporter Refueled (PG13 – 96 minutes)

In 2002, Luc Besson wrote a movie for Jason Statham, who trained a whole bunch for the Jet Li movie The One.  Basically, Jet Li travels the multi-verse killing all other Jet Lis so that he can become the one Jet Li – and in so doing, the most powerful Jet Li.  The only person left to stop him is, of course, one of the other Jet Lis.  Statham played a cop partnered with Delroy Lindo who was after the bad Jet Li. 

Besson felt that Statham was an action star on the rise – which was a surprise to Guy Ritchie fans, who felt that Bacon was best in brawly british comedies. That’s the short version of how we got the Louis Leterrier directed The Transporter.  Frank Martin is the transporter – a guy who picks things up and takes them places in Marseilles.  He’s got three rules for his business – 1) Never change the deal, 2) No names, 3) never look in the package.  He inevitably looks in the package he’s handed, and subsequently gets pulled into a human trafficking mess.  Luckily, he and his tricked out BMW are skilled enough to save the day.

It’s super fun with some awesome practical action and great performances from Francois Berleand and the creepy Ric Young.  You also get to see Matt Schulze midway through his transition from creepy-skinny couch thug vampire in Blade to creepy-bulked up mercenary vampire in Blade 2.
This led to two sequels. Transporter 2 shifted Martin to America, and he did some fancy driving in Miami to try to clear his name in the kidnapping of the son of a US official. It also snuck Statham’s best friend Jason Flemyng in as a creepy thug – he’s the best part.  The rest is really terrible.
Transporter 3 sends Frank back to Europe, and he delivers a young woman from Marseilles to Odessa.  It’s even worse than the second one.

Despite the lame sequels, we did end up getting a TV show, and now a re-booting of the film franchise.  I suppose the original is 13 years old, but that seems way too soon for a re-booting.  In any case, in this one, we’re re-introduced to Frank Martin – the ex-special ops soldier who is making a living transporting things in Marseilles.  We also get to meet his dad, who seems to have just retired from being a British spy – but keeps telling Frank he just worked for Evian selling water.  Sure you did, buddy.

Frank gets hired to move some ladies from one place to another, and accidentally gets caught up in one woman’s revenge/escape plot to get out of her life of sex slavery.  Her mother basically sold her to a bunch of thugs when she was little, and she’s been working for them ever since.  She’s got an elaborate plan to get out, and Frank and his father get mixed up in it. 

Honestly, that’s about it for the plot.  There’s some pretty good action, some okay car chases, and of course – some slow loving looks at flashy cars.   The hand to hand sequences definitely fall short of the original, they are part of what made the original so unique and cool.  This one barely has any.  I also had a bit of a problem with the complicated plan that the prostitutes come up with.  They start out as cold and calculating – willing to do anything to get free, including kick some ass.  But near the end, they turn into damsels in distress again – needing to be rescued.  It would have been great if they would have stayed at the same level through the whole movie. This one is directed by Camille Delamarre, who is another Besson product and has worked as an editor on his other movies.  He did an okay job, and really, my issues with the movie are not with the directing.  More with the story – and some of the acting – and the fact that it was made.  It's just entirely unnecessary.

  • In case, like me, while watching Game of Thrones you were puzzled by what happed to Daario Naharis, this movie is the reason.  Once season he was this crazy beautiful fair-haired dude, suddenly the next season, he’s a completely different guy – and since that character almost never gets called by his name, there were at least a couple of episodes where I kept thinking, “Who is this guy, and what happened to that other guy?”  Well, they’re the same guy – but Ed Skrein, the first actor, left the show to do this movie (bad move, Ed).  Of course, he will be the villain in the upcoming Deadpool movie (good move, Ed).  Why not Statham?  Statham wanted $11 million and they didn’t want to give him that. 

  • Skrein is just fine.  He’s not exciting or interesting, but he is just fine.  He looks a little bit like if you took Nicholas Hoult and Statham-ed him up a bit.  He’s not nearly as charismatic as Statham, and honestly – the comparison is not fair – but, it’s a Transporter movie, so you can’t help but compare him, and he comes up way short.

  • The best part of this movie is the inclusion of Ray Stevenson as Frank Senior.  He’s been a favorite of mine since Anthony Fuqua’s King Arthur.  He was a decent Punisher, and he’s great in the Thor movies as one of the Warriors Three.  He’s super fun in this, and really seems to get the hang of making a bad action movie.  If only everyone else around him was having as much fun.  I did get a little tired of him getting constantly kidnapped.

  • Loan Chabanol plays Anna, the lead of the four prostitutes that the film centers around.  She’s the one with the complicated plan to get out from under the thugs.

  • Gabriella Wright plays Gina, Tatiana Pajkovic plays Maria, and Wenxia Yu plays Qiao – the three woman who make up the rest of the prostitutes.  Did you not immediately make a D’Artangnan and the Three Musketeers connection?  Don’t worry, the movie will make that for you over and over again.

  • Radivoje Bukvic plays the bad guy, Karasov– he’s a completely generic eastern-european flesh-peddler bad guy.

  • Noemie Lenoir plays Maissa, the one prostitute that seems to be on Karasov’s side. 

This movie was not good.  And I love a terrible action movie, but one that has a good sense of fun and some really unique action sequences.  This movie had none of that.   Skip it – just rewatch the 2002 original.  And hey, re-watch The One while you’re at it.

4 out of 10 – Gained points for the locations, man, southern France looks gorgeous!  Lost points for no Statham, and no Berleand.  Gained points for Ray Stevenson.  Lost points for Frank (both Franks) sleeping with the prostitutes they are trying to help.  I get that they’re seducing you guys, but they’re still prostitutes, show a little control!

Bonus Video 1 – War, this movie was bad, but it was a Statham – Li rematch prior to the Expendables.

Bonus Video 2 – Expendables 3 was a really really good terrible action movie!

Bonus Video 3 – Cast Interviews.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Retro Movie Review: Mortal Kombat (PG13 – 101 minutes – 1995)

It’s been 20 years since the Mortal Kombat movie was in theaters.  This is particularly shocking to me because I watched it several times in the theater the fall of my freshman year of college.  Where did the time go?  In my opinion, it seems that it was one of the only truly great video game movies.  Now, that might (emphasis on might) change next year when Michael’s Fassbender’s Assassin’s Creed is released on December 21st, 2016.  But, if you’ve played any Assassin’s Creed, you know that the present day memory-time-travel bit will be a little confusing to put on screen.   

Most video games these days have great stories behind them, and have profits to rival movie profits.  However, back in 1992 when the first Mortal Kombat game was released, stories were simpler.  Essentially Ed Boon and John Tobias created a martial-arts fantasty-themed fighting game that quickly became famous – or perhaps infamous – for the high levels of insane cartoon violence.  Oh – and replacing “C”s with a “K” (time to kollect your koins to spend in the krypt).  

It also had ‘finishing moves’, so that if you beat your opponent, you then have the option of completely dispatching them in a horrific way – provided you can figure out the combination of buttons to push.  I do remember playing MK1 in the arcade at the movie theater and at home, and figuring out Scorpion’s finishing move – and then being really impressed with myself.  To be fair – it was down, down, punch – so not too complicated. 

The plot of the original game was that there are multiple realms created by the elder gods, who then decreed that the ruler of any one realm could only conquer another realm by defeating the realm’s greatest warriors in ten consecutive Mortal Kombat tournaments.  So – the game is the tournament.  The first game was somewhat groundbreaking in that it was made with digitized sprites based on film actors.  Essentially – it was motion capture before motion capture was a commonly used thing. 
I love these games, I bought my PS1 so that I could play Mortal Kombat Triology.  I bought my PS2 so that I could play MK Deadly Alliance and Armageddon. I bought my PS3 so I could play the reboot and MK vs DC Universe – and I finally bought a PS4 to play MKX.  My favorite was the Deception/Deadly Alliance/Shaolin Monks trilogy which basically all told the same story.  

In Deception – you play as Shujinko, who starts as a regular kid, but ends up aging to an old man over the course of the game as he travels from realm to realm studying with all the different game characters.  This one did insist you try to learn ridiculous combos to use for each character – but let’s be real, you don’t remember any of that when playing the game – it’s just button mashing.
By the time they got to the later versions of these games, they had started to take on a very cinematic quality.  This is the opening to Armageddon.

In 1995, the first movie was released – which was somewhat inevitable, based on the success of the game.  It was directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (Event Horizon, Resident Evil, AVP, Death Race, Resident Evil 4, The Three Musketeers, Resident Evil 5, Pompeii – and RE 6 will be out next year), before he met and married Milla Jovovich, which is why she’s not in this.  Basically – he took the plot of the first game, and translated it into a silly and fun movie that had great action and martial arts fights. 

The movie starts with people receiving their invites to the tournament, and we follow former Shaolin monk Lui Kang, military officer Sonya Blade (who was the most popular character in the very first game), and martial arts movie star Johnny Cage.  During the invitation-receiving scenes, we learn just enough about each character to learn what their flaws are and clearly understand that they will have to overcome those flaws to make it out of the tournament.  No part of this movie is subtle.  Liu is looking for revenge for losing his brother to the sorcerer Shang Tsung; Sonya is obsessed with finding criminal Kano – and refusing to ask for help from anyone; and Johnny – well, Johnny just seems to be a bit of a dick whose insane amount of luggage is repeatedly used for a gag. 

They all get picked up by a mystical ship that comes in with the fog. While on the ship – the sorcerer Shang Tsung greets them, and gloats about how he has both legendary ninjas Scorpion and Sub-Zero under his power and working for him.  As the gloating starts to turn into what could become a fight – Raiden shows up and interrupts everyone by lightning around the boat – because he can turn into lightning.  

He then very clearly provides some quick exposition about the tournament and what flaw each of our three heroes will need to overcome, in case you missed the heavy-handed character development earlier.  Upon arrival at the tournament island – Shang Tsung does some more gloating by laying out a huge feast, and bragging about Prince Goro, and how he’s undefeated.  We get to see SubZero demonstrate his power, and then everyone is sent to bed without eating.  

Instead of heading to bed, our heroes start sneaking around the palace.  Liu sees Pricess Kitana, and immediately gets smitten – Sonya sees Kano eating with Goro, and Johnny continues to be a dick. They get into a fight with some guards and finally call it a night.  The next day – we get to see some of the tournament fights.  

Johnny takes on Scorpion – Sonya eliminates Kano by using some of her trademark moves from the game; and Liu gets a warning from Kitana in a fight with her that I think he lost.  He then uses the heavy-handed advice from her to defeat SubZero.  

We then finally get to see Goro in action as he takes on Art Lean (a character so fun that my brother and I still quote his lines back and forth to each other – “I’ve seen some of your movies, you can’t fake those moves!” an average line made great by fun delivery). 

Our heroes put together a loose plan which involves Johnny challenging Goro – winning by nut-punching him to knock him off a cliff (again, a move of his from the game); Shang Tsung panics and grabs Sonya, then heads to Outworld - a different realm, basically cheating.  What?  The bad guy is cheating?!?  Raiden gives some last minute advice as Liu and Johnny head through to finish it.  Liu fights Reptile while Johnny seems to disappear for a moment, then they get to the final fight, and spoiler alert – he defeats Shang Tsung by learning to conquer his own fears – they rescue Sonya (which is something I hated, she’s badass – she shouldn’t be getting kidnapped and needing rescue…maybe it was a setup?).  Then they all head back home, just in time to chat with Raiden about how he had faith in them the whole time right before that Shao Khan decides to try to invade anyway. 

That’s a lot of things, but there were actually things that got cut that would have been awesome.  There was supposed to be more of a love story between Liu and Kitana, which probably wasn’t necessary.  There would have been a battle between Sonya and Jade – which would have been cool.  There was supposed to be a scene where they buried Art Lean under a statue of Kung Lao.  What we did get was a terrible sequel – and while Brian Johnson was a pretty good Shao Khan, the rest of the movie was terrible.  They butchered my favorite character Mileena, but had a pretty awesome Jax.  

Paul W.S. Anderson is great on visuals, and this movie first and foremost, looks amazing.  The pieces that were shot in Thailand are beautiful.  

The fights are all fantastic and the movie benefits from casting real martial artists in the roles. 

  • Robin Shou had done plenty of movies over in Hong Kong before doing this as his first American movie (which he followed with the Chris Farley comedy, Beverly Hills Ninja).  If you want to see a fantastic movie with him and Cynthia Rothrock – watch Honor and Glory.  He centers the movie as Liu Kang, being the only one not surprised by what’s happening all the time.  Russell Wong, Dustin Nguyen, Keith Cooke and Phillip Rhee all auditioned to play Liu Kang, but I’m thrilled that Shou got it.  He’s amazing – plus – that hair! Spectacular!

  • Bridgette Willson-Sampras (she’s married to tennis start Pete Sampras) played Sonya Blade after Cameron Diaz broke her wrist in training before filing began.  She was fine, but honestly, I would have preferred more of a fighter, but she was certainly capable.

  • Linden Ashby played Johnny Cage, after it was offered to Jean-Claude van Damme.  He was a green belt in karate, and did his best to be the smarmy Cage.  He was really fun – especially at the beginning before his redemption.  Anderson used him again in RE3, which may have been my favorite of the RE movies.

  • Talisa Soto played Princess Kitana – and aside from her one fight with Liu, in which she definitely used her fans, she mainly does a lot of standing around looking intensely at Liu Kang.

  • Trevor Goddard played Kano who was never Australian in the game, but after Goddard’s performance, he certainly became Australian in any other incarnations.  Goddard was big, beefy, and chewed all the scenery!  I still have no idea if he's claiming his knife put a big smile on Sonya's partner from "here to here" or "ear to ear".  Either way - ewww.

  • Chris Casamassa (my absolute favorite WMAC Master – Hakim Alston also shows up in the movie) played Scorpion,, and does get to do his finishing move.

  • Francois Petit played SubZero, very slick and fun.  Both he and Casamassa are excellent martial artists, and really elevated the fight sequences.  

  • Kenneth Edwards played the plucky Art Lean, who was super fun right up until he ran into Goro.

  • Christopher Lambert – who was amazing in Highlander – played Raiden, or Rayden, depending on what version you’re playing at the time.  He brought a sense of fun and lightness to the movie that would have not been there otherwise.  Also – he paid for the wrap party on his own, since the production had run out of money by then.

  • Easily the best part of this movie is Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Shang Tsung – endlessly quotable, perfectly cheesy, and seethingly evil, he’s just fantastic.  He glides through this movie like he’s having a great time.  In real life, he's a very chill Hawaiian with a ton of martial arts skill - but here, he's creepy, especially when lusting after Sonya.

  • And Goro was animatronic.  Nowadays, he'd be CGI - back then, he was a big time puppet.

Overall, it’s tons of fun.  Yes, the story is lame, and yes, the acting isn’t great – but the scenery is beautiful, the fights are awesome, and the soundtrack was all EDM before EDM was a thing!  Here’s that song, good luck getting it out of your head.

10 out of 10 – one of my all time favorites.
Bonus Video 1: Okay - maybe it had some flaws...

Bonus Video 2:  Mortal Kombat Legacy – Machinima made several short episodes of this, and it’s a little more R-rated.  Okay - a lot more R-rated.  Honestly, it made me really happy the movie was PG13.  Yikes.

Bonus Video 3:  Speaking of more R Rated, Conan sat down to play the new MKX game with the Patriots Rob Gronkowski and the Seahawks Marshawn Lynch before the last superbowl.

Bonus Video 4: Mortal Kombat Conquest – the short lived TV show set before the movie and focused on Kung Lao.  Yeah, this was totally a thing.

Bonus Video 5:  Behind the scenes fun: