Movie Review – Machete

Machete is a Roberto Rodriguez movie about illegal immigration and revenge.

This finely styled salute to 1970s B action flicks earns an enthusiastic 8.

I must say right up front that I left the theater with a big smile.

The genesis of this movie was as a mock trailer between Planet Terror (Rodriguez) and Death Proof (Tarantino) in Grindhouse. And boy, am I glad that they made it into a full length film!

To top it off, I saw it in Cinemark XD – that is extreme digital, which means a massive floor to ceiling and wall to wall screen much like IMAX with surround sound and in digital. WOW!!! Totally worth the $12 ticket. Screw driving down to Columbus for IMAX – this is almost as good for less money and no 250 mile round trip.

As you saw in the trailer, Machete is hired to assassinate an anti-immigration Texas state senator by an evil businessman, who betrays Machete by having him shot in the act of trying to shoot the politician. The rest of the movie is revenge and bloodshed. It’s actually a compelling plot and flows along nicely.

Machete is played by the wonderful Danny Trejo. Mr. Trejo has graced us with his presence in From Dusk Till Dawn and The Devil’s Rejects (sequel to House of 1,000 Corpse – Rob Zombie, both awesome flicks) as well as two billion movies. Seriously. Take a look at his bio on He has appeared on The X Files, Monk, Desperate Housewives, Stargate Atlantis, Burn Notice and The Young and the Restless. He is one large, ugly, mean looking Mexican dude. He fits the role well and offers a strong, relentless presence throughout the movie. He is very credible as a former Mexican federale who has been done wrong. And he is a stud.

But wait, there’s more! Don Johnson is the evil lawman, who is a little too enthusiastic in his border patrols. He runs a vigilante operation. Robert De Niro is the state senator; he is perfect in this sleazy, self-righteous role. Steven Seagal is the evil drug lord, Torrez. He is getting a bit old and puffy and adds a bit of humor. Cheech Marin is a priest, of course… Lindsay Lohan is the drug and sex addled daughter of the evil businessman. That role must have been quite a stretch for her. Jessica Alba is the honest Customs & Immigration officer. Her mixed martial arts using two stiletto high heels as stilettos was quite entertaining. Of course, Electra and Elise Avellan appeared as two nurses. These hot twins cannot act but they pout well and look great toting around big automatic weapons. They also appeared in Rodriguez’s Planet Terror as the gun toting babysitter twins. Michelle Rodriguez (no relation to Robert) appears as Luz, a taco stand operator who happens to run the illegal immigrant version of the underground railroad. You have seen her in Avatar, Fast & Furious, Resident Evil and Girlfight. Last but not least is Jeff Fahey as the evil businessman. He has a deep, whispery voice that makes his evil ooze out of the screen and into your ears.

Is that a great cast or what? They all did a great job.

In the final analysis, this movie replicates the rocking, action flicks of the 1970s that no one remembers. De Niro probably won’t get an oscar for this one, but the movie is very fun and very entertaining. The action is almost cartoonish at times, but is done intentionally that way, which is very, very fun.

Movie Review – Iron Man 2

Iron Man 2 is an excellent sequel to an outstanding movie.

This action-packed romp earns an 8.

Robert Downey Jr. continues his success playing the ego-driven, narcissistic hero, Tony Stark. “I am Iron Man.” He loves the adulation (and chicks) that comes with his new public role. He also faces personal issues as the side-effects of being Iron Man develop. It is a tough balance for an actor to portray, and Downey does a solid job bringing Tony Stark believably to life.

The rest of the cast put in a good performance, too, but are eclipsed by Downey. I didn’t recognize Garry Shandling as Senator Stern, who seeks to get the Iron Man technology for the government. His face is now quite flabby. Gwyneth Paltrow returns as Pepper Potts, Stark’s personal assistant and voice of reason. Scarlett Johansson is introduced as a sexy and intriguing employee from the legal department of Stark Industries. She is fun to watch. Don Cheadle continues his role as Lt. Col. Rhodes, another voice of reason and balance to Tony Stark. He isn’t particularly compelling, but I don’t think he could do much more with the lines and role that he was given. Sam Rockwell is excellent as the sleazy, unethical and spiteful CEO Justin Hammer of weapons company Hammer Industries, the primary competitor to Stark Industries for military contracts. Ah, Mickey Rourke. What a beautiful man… He does a durably decent job as villain Ivan Vanko. We are given enough background for him to be believable, but he does pull off some unlikely things as any super-villain does in these stories. It’s not a problem. He is more human and with more straightforward and believable motivations than many villains. He is a good choice for the role. And what movie would be complete without Samuel L. Jackson? He expands his role as Nick Fury of the Avengers project.

The plot makes sense. It takes the next logical steps that would naturally evolve from the first movie. The government takes a national security interest in Iron Man and Ivan Vanko rears his ugly (literally) head. It provides plenty of palatable action and excitement. That is all of the plot that I shall provide to avoid spoilers (and additional work by me).

Don’t forget to stay for the teaser scene at the end of the credits (like a certain me did).

Movie Review – Fish Tank

Fish Tank tells the story of a girl who knows nothing of Norman Rockwell.

This dark story earned an 8 and is worth making your evening sad.

After watching this movie, I felt that the world had become a little darker.

Mia is a troubled 15 year old growing up in the dirty tenements of London or some other hopeless industrial town in England. At least the only part of the city that is shown is the bedraggled portion. Her mother is an unloving, drunk trollop, and no mention of father at all. Mia doesn’t seem to have anyone close to her and lives in emotional isolation in a rough world. All of that begins to change once her mother brings home a new boyfriend who reaches out to Mia and encourages her to pursue her dancing and to be a nicer person. She is not terribly cooperative, and the rest you will have to see for yourself.

Katie Jarvis is excellent as Mia. Her sturm und drang are exquisitely portrayed in fits of rage and recklessness. One can feel total sympathy for her plight while not agreeing with her handling of it. The portrayal of her mother and sister also capture well the coarseness and futility of life in the tenements. The acting was good by the others, too, but Mia is the life and blood of the film. The plot and story are good. It is just very depressing.

As we reminisce about our own difficult teen years, this movie will remind most of us that it wasn’t really that bad after all.

This movie is powerful and sad, but I strongly recommend it.

~Elric the Damned


Daybreakers tells of the world when vampires rule and humans are almost extinct.

This entertaining piece gets an 8.

The story is set in 2019, 10 years after bats infected the human race with vampirism. Most of the population has turned with some humans remaining – voluntarily and some not-so-voluntarily…

Vampires work regular jobs and have essentially maintained normal human existence except that activity is at night and buildings are fortified against sunlight. The problem is that the human population has dropped to a level where blood is getting in short supply and a good substitute has not been developed. When a vampire’s diet faces a significant deficiency of human blood, it begins to mutate into a mindless mutant with wings and claws – not a pretty sight…

Ethan Hawke is a brilliant vampire scientist working on an effective human blood substitute for a large biotech company. The main business of the company is running a human blood farm – a large chamber in the building has hundreds of columns with circular platforms that hold unconscious humans like so many bags of fresh blood. It totally reminded me of the human farm in The Matrix. The blood supply is dwindling as the humans are dying.

Speaking of other movies, Ethan Hawke must pass through several biometric security gates to get into the biotech’s research building, just like he did in Gattaca. While this movie does borrow some visual ideas from elsewhere, it is very well done and has an excellent plot. Hawke is ultimately sympathetic to humanity’s plight and gets caught up in its fate. There is adventure and several plot twists. That is all that I can prudently tell you.

Ethan Hawke is a sympathetic vampire fulfilling his character well. Sam Neill is the unsympathetic CEO of the biotech company as the stereotype goes – one could hardly imagine a good CEO or corporation (which is one of the reasons our country will lose it competitiveness and wealth). The acting was good overall. Willem Dafoe is pretty entertaining as one of the human rebels on the loose.

Daybreakers is clever, interesting and very entertaining. It is pretty much at the end of its run in the theaters so you will most likely have to wait for the DVD, but seeing it in the theater would be more enjoyable.

Movie Review – Surrogates

surrogates_mSurrogates is a thought provoking peek into the possible future of humanity.

This thoughtful action drama earned a solid 8. I saw this with five of my friends at the theater. Five of the six thought this was a very good movie, and the other one gave it a not-so-much.

As will become obvious by my lengthy review, this movie was very enjoyable and interesting while touching a personal chord. There are no significant plot spoilers in here as is typical of my respect for the surprise factor for those who have not seen the movie yet (people who ruin the surprise for others are evil and should be violently castrated!).

In the future, humans do not leave their homes. Instead they venture out via a surrogate robot to which they are connected by a super computer connection. A person is able to experience every sensation that the surrogate feels, sees and hears without any physical risk. Life is now “safe.” Humans go to work and recreation via their surrogates while lying on reclining tables with video masks and electrodes attached to their heads. The streets are full of robots that look very much like humans. How people maintain muscle mass and slender figures while spending all day as the ultimate couch potatoes is not explained.

Detective Tom Greer (Bruce Willis) is called in to investigate the bloody death of a human who has died while connected to his surrogate. Of course, this is impossible because the technology has been thoroughly tested and has run live for many years without an incident. Almost every human is tied into this system. If this problem were possible, it could be bad… It might even cause a panic.

As you would expect, there are groups of humans that refuse to use surrogates and live on reservations as outcasts and reactionaries. They are led by the charismatic and mysterious Prophet (Ving Rhames). Naturally, the creator of this technology, Dr. Canter (James Cromwell), now lives in seclusion and has a role to play. Greer’s wife, Maggie (Rosamund Pike) loves living her life through her surrogate and refuses to spend any human-to-human time with her husband in their apartment despite Greer’s requests for together time.

Greer is somewhat disenchanted with living his life through a surrogate and eventually must venture into the real world with his real body to solve the mysterious deaths that are beginning to pile up in what could be a catastrophe for humanity. It is not made any easier by the fact that he is quite capable of dying and none of the other “people” out there can be hurt. From the beginning, it is obviously not a simple software glitch.

The plot is very well done and has many complexities. This movie will make you think and perhaps feel a little uncomfortable if you think hard enough. But it is a good uncomfortable that we will need to address eventually as a society and as individuals. The Internet has already enabled many of us to live a large portion of our lives online instead of in human-to-human interactions. How much is too much and when do we begin to lose a sense of community or humanity? It is time to start thinking about this as we are on the way to having surrogates or living completely through our minds (The Matrix, etc.).

The cinematography was well done. It was almost startling to see the difference between the human Greer and his surrogate. The surrogate had a slightly more stiff (almost plastic) face and a full head of hair (not a very flattering cut by any stretch!) compared to the very human and weathered head of the human Greer (Willis). This difference was consistently maintained for all of the characters in the movie. The special effects/make up artists did a fantastic job with this. Kudos!

The acting was also superb. For some reason, I really enjoy Bruce Willis in science fiction movies (The Fifth Element, Planet Terror, Sin City, and the non-sci fi Die Hard flicks). There is just something about his solid presence that fits the cop/detective/officer stereotypical role that he always seems to get. He is a stud, a man’s man, a lone wolf and looks really cool with his head shaved. The other actors held up their end of the movie, too.

Please see this excellent piece of cinematography and possible vision of our future.

~Elric the Damned