FREE Movie Tickets – well, sort of

I love FREE movie tickets.

The Expendables 3

 

Best Buy has a display of Blu-Rays with FREE tickets to The Expendables 3 on them. Prices started at $7.99. Titles included Empire State, Ender’s Game, Escape Plan, The Expendables, The Expendables 2, Fire with Fire, Haywire, Last Stand, Red, Red 2, Redemption, Safe, Terminator/Total Recall double, Transporter 3, and a three-pack with Copland/First Blood/Lock Up.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

 

Best Buy also had an endcap of films with FREE tickets to Sin City: A Dame to Kill For. Unlike other offers, these are not with the product but print on your receipt. Please also note that while Sin City is on the endcap, it does NOT generate a FREE ticket. The eclectic titles include: Battle of the Damned, The Day, Erased, The Grandmaster, Hunt to Kill, Killing Me Softly, Lawless, Maximum Conviction, Mr. Jones, Only God Forgives, The Package, Scary Movie 5, Seal Team Six, Seeking Justice, and Son of No One.

If you purchase more than one title then more than one code will print though I do not know what the limit is.

Noah

 

Blu-ray copies of Noah at many stores (Amazon, Target, Best Buy) have stickers that net you a FREE movie ticket to any movie.

From Dusk Till Dawn

From Dusk Till Dawn is currently available on instant Netflix.

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) – Rated R

“Robbers-on-the-lam Seth and Richard Gecko take an ex-preacher and his kids hostage. On a race to the Mexican border, they rendezvous at a cantina, not knowing the owners and clientele are bloodthirsty vampires in this ode to 1960s horror movies.”

“I’m not gonna drain you completely. You’re gonna turn for me. You’ll be my slave. You’ll live for me. You’ll eat bugs because I order it. Why? Because I don’t think you’re worthy of human blood. You’ll feed on the blood of stray dogs. You’ll be my foot stool.”

Director and editor Robert Rodriguez makes two separate movies here. The first is a criminals on the run saga which takes up quite a bit of screentime but then it morphs into a vampire survival tale. Although much of it is unprintable, Tarantino’s script has a lot of punch and great characters.

George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino play the outlaw Gecko Brothers. Clooney is firm, loyal and desperate as bank robber Seth but Tarantino is off-the-wall as his crazy brother Richard. They take a family hostage on their way to Mexico. The father is an embittered ex-priest, Jacob Fuller, played by Harvey Keitel. His children are Kate and Scott Fuller played by Juliette Lewis and Ernest Liu.

Rodriguez packs the movie with guest stars. Before the bar, John Saxon cameos as FBI Agent Chase. John Hawkes, Oscar-nominated for Winter’s Bone, has an early role as Pete the store clerk. Kelly Preston (Mrs. John Travolta) is a newscaster.

At the bar, makeup artist Tom Savini plays Sex Machine. Makeup artists Greg (Walking Dead) Nicotero plays Sex Machine’s friend. Director Robert Rodriguez pops up as a bandmember. Fred “The Hammer” Williamson plays Frost. The lovely Salma Hayek plays Santanico Pandemonium (and dances with a snake for you fetishists). Cheech Marin plays three roles: a border guard, Chet, and Carlos.

The criminals on the run saga is pretty good, mainly due to Tarantino’s funny script. It takes awhile to get to the vampire portion of the movie but once there, Rodriguez makes it a non-stop roller coaster ride of vampire destruction. Special effects are good and fun, with the vampires perishing in a myriad of ways. They use a lot of green blood to get some of the killings past the ratings board (an old trick).

People Watch: The wonderful Michael Parks plays Texas Ranger Earl McGraw. He would reprise that character again in Kill Bill parts one and two as well as both segments of Grindhouse (Planet Terror and Death Proof). He also plays writer Ambrose Bierce in From Dusk Till Dawn 3.

Sequel-itis: What happens when you take a franchise and get rid of director Robert Rodriguez, writer Quentin Tarantino, and actors Harvey Keitel, George Clooney, Salma Hayek, and Juliette Lewis? The straight to video back-to-back sequels – From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money (1999) with Robert Patrick and Bo Hopkins and From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter (1999) with Michael Parks. The only connecting thread is Danny Trejo but the sequels are not very good.

Mimic

Mimic is currently available on instant Netflix.

Mimic (1997) – Rated R

“Mira Sorvino stars as an entomologist whose work results in the eradication of disease-carrying cockroaches, only to create a new breed of lethal, man-sized insect in the sewer systems of New York City.”

Sometimes an insect will even mimic its predator.”

How do you make a good horror movie? It certainly helps to hire a visionary director like Guillermo del Toro. Guillermo del Toro disavowed Mimic in the end because of the monumental interference he suffered from the studio. The interference was so bad that afterwards he went back to Mexico. Still Mimic is an excellent horror movie.

Guillermo del Toro and Matthew Robbins wrote the screen story and screenplay. It is based on the short story, Mimic, by Donald A. Wollheim. The screenplay is well-plotted and very literate. It also wisely allows things to unfold over time.

Another nice ingredient in a good horror movie is to fill it with good actors. Oscar-winner Mira Sorvino is quite good as Dr. Susan Tyler. Her partner in the accidental creation of the creatures is Dr. Peter Mann, played by Jeremy Northam. Northam was recently in The Tudors as Sir Thomas More. The final member of their team is pistachio-eating Josh, amusingly played by Oscar-nominated Josh Brolin.

The supporting roles are filled by good actors as well. Dr. Tyler’s mentor is Dr. Gates, played by Oscar-winner F. Murray Abraham. Golden Globe-nominated Charles Dutton plays Leonard. Finally Oscar-nominated Giancarlo Giannini plays Manny, a father searching desperately for his lost boy.

In addition to the visionary director, good actors and literate script, Mimic also features great creature design, set design, and wonderful special effects. Backing Guillermo up was none other than Robert Rodriguez as the second unit director.

While Mimic is excellent, I would love to see what del Toro’s original vision was, especially given how fantastic Pan’s Labyrinth was. Guillermo recently released a Director’s Cut on Blu-Ray that he says he is happy with, being the best he could piece together with the elements available. Be aware that this film deals extensively with bugs, both giant and of the cockroach variety.

People Watch: Guillermo del Toro regular Doug Jones plays Long John #3 here. He played Fauno and Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth and Abe Sapien in the two Hellboy movies as well as Chamberlain and the Angel of Death in Hellboy II. Distinctive character actor Julian Richings, Death in Supernatural, plays a workman here. Norman (Boondock Saints) Reedus briefly plays Jeremy. Reedus is enjoying success as Daryl Dixon in The Walking Dead.

Sequel-itis: Obviously an iconic monster like the insects in Mimic have to be replicated. The straight-to-video sequels Mimic 2 (2001) and Mimic: Sentinel (2003) are quite forgettable.

Aliens Attack! The Faculty Edition

With every movie I see in the theaters being a variation on Aliens Attack! (The Avengers, Battleship, Men in Black III, and Prometheus being the last four movies I’ve seen), I thought I would check out the Netflix equivalents. I will say that I hope the rest of the summer movies can do without aliens (Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises).

The Faculty is currently available on instant Netflix.

One-Line Review: Aliens attack The Breakfast Club (with fun results).

The Faculty (1998) – Rated R

“Many teens think their teachers hail from another planet — but what if it’s true? Herrington High students notice that faculty members aren’t quite themselves, and discover an alien infection they might not be able to stop.”

Robert Rodriguez is a vastly fun director. He is always very kinetic and edits his own films. There is no such thing as a slow-paced Rodriguez film. He knows how to make the most out of a shoestring budget and has a good eye for gore effects.

After a brief scene to establish that The Faculty is a horror movie, Rodriguez introduces us to our jock Stan (Shawn Hatosy – physically a bit miscast), nerd Casey (Elijah Wood), popular girl Delilah (Jordana Brewster), head case Stokely (Clea Duvall), punk Zeke (Josh Hartnett) and new girl Marybeth (Laura Harris). If those archetypes seem familiar, the first five are lifted from The Breakfast Club.

Rodriguez’ trades in on Robert Patrick’s former role as the T-1000. His inherent oddness makes him seem alien and sinister and he does a good role of playing that up. Rodriguez regular Salma Hayek has a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it role as the school nurse. Famke Janssen has a lot of fun as a wallflower teacher but you can see that she’s just a removal of glasses and hair flip away from being the Hollywood hottie.

Rodriguez gets fun (not good but fun) performances from everyone including Bebe Neuwirth and Piper Laurie as other faculty members.

While Rodriguez normally writes, edits, and directs, here he wisely turns the writing chores over to Kevin Williamson. Rodriguez writes efficiently but Williamson really knows how to write young people. He throws in the usual pop culture references including a hilarious one about Invasion of the Body Snatchers ripping off Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters (which it did). The Faculty is essentially the same story.

Note to wife: there is a wonderful “you own nothing” scene midway through the movie.

As usual for this scenario, the first two acts are creepy but the script and direction are too fun to get a real feeling of paranoia. The third act turns into more of a monster movie (obvious from the previews). As usual for Rodriguez, the action is well-handled and several of the scenes are memorable (and a bit wince-inducing).

I know I have used the word ‘fun’ too often but that is definitely the theme here. The Faculty is a fun gory horror movie.

People Watch: Look for Daily Show pundit Jon Stewart in a brief role as a science teacher.

Desperado – South of the Border week

This is South of the Border week. We will be featuring movies taking place in Mexico. Desperado is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Desperado (1995) – Rated R for strong bloody violence, a strong sex sequence and language.

“This south-of-the-border action flick picks up where the indie hit El Mariachi left off. Seedy drug lord Bucho (Joaquim de Almeida) is responsible for killing the girlfriend of El Mariachi (Antonio Banderas) and for injuring the musician to a point where he can no longer play the guitar. Seeking revenge, he goes in search of Bucho, and a showdown ensues between the rivals — but not before El Mariachi meets the lovely Carolina (Salma Hayek).”

“Bless me Father, for I have just killed quite a few men.”

Robert Rodriguez again writes, directs, produces, and edits for Desperado. Taking on so many tasks allows him to make films for a lot less.

Here he had $7 million to work with. This allowed him to work with a number of name actors and use a lot more real guns than in El Mariachi (which used squirt guns for many of the scenes).

Desperado is nominally a sequel to El Mariachi though it rehashes much of the plot and themes from the original (a la Evil Dead II).

The second bar fight is absolutely hilarious and is obviously very heavily inspired by John Woo. It is a very elaborate setpiece with a wonderful standoff. Rodriguez keeps his action frantic without being confusing (something that has become all too common these days).

Antonio Banderas is very charismatic as the Mariachi. This is the best role I have seen him in. He even does all of his own guitar work including “Cancion Del Mariachi” at the beginning of the film.

Salma Hayek is gorgeous and fun as Carolina. There is a hilarious scene  where she crosses the street and two cars behind her crash because they are watching her. I like it because she holds her own and is not just the love interest.

Robert Rodriguez stated that when they filmed the sex montage sequence between Salma Hayek and Antonio Banderas, everyone on the crew showed up.

Joaquim de Almeida plays our villain Bucho. This is essentially the same role Moco (Peter Marquardt) played in the original. Bucho is a boss much like Moco and dresses all in white just like Moco. Joaquim replaced Raul Julia, who had to drop out due to health reasons.

The supporting cast is absolutely marvelous.

Cheech Marin and Quentin Tarantino have a lot of fun with their humorous roles.

Steve Buscemi plays the conscience of the Mariachi. The role is so tailored to him that the character is actually called Buscemi. Originally he was to have been the pick-up guy but a new role was written for him when Tarantino decided to cameo.

Danny Trejo plays a knife-wielding assassin, Navajas. This is a very similar character to Azul in El Mariachi. Danny is finally going to headline a movie. Robert Rodriguez has made a feature-length movie out of his fake Grindhouse trailer, Machete and it is currently in post-production.

Carlos Gallardo returns from El Mariachi. This time he plays Campa, a friend to El Mariachi.

I highly recommend this quintessential action movie unless gore bothers you. If you enjoy this and El Mariachi then stick the final film in the trilogy, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, in your DVD queue.

People Watch: Actually not so much a “people” watch as a prop watch. The crotch gun that Carolina finds in the guitar case is sadly never used here. It is however used the following year in From Dusk Til Dawn (by Tom Savini no less).

El Mariachi – South of the Border week

This is South of the Border week. We will be featuring movies taking place in Mexico. El Mariachi is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: El Mariachi (1992) – Rated R for adult content, adult language, and graphic violence.

“When guitar player El Mariachi (Carlos Gallardo) arrives in a small Mexican town, drug lord Moco (Peter Marquardt) mistakes him for Azul (Reinol Martinez), an assassin who carries a trademark guitar case full of guns. Now he must elude Mocos henchmen, who plan to shoot first and ask questions later. First-time indie filmmaker Robert Rodriguez famously made the wildly popular gritty crime drama on a $7,000 budget.”

“I came across a turtle. I realized we were both taking our time getting to where we were going but what I did not know was that my time was running out.”

This is the first feature film by one of my favorite directors, Robert Rodriguez. Prior to this he had made a cute short, Bedhead, that can be viewed on Youtube.

When you are working on a $7,000 budget, you have to wear a lot of hats. Robert Rodriguez is not only the director, producer and writer of El Mariachi but also the cinematographer, film editor, sound editor, music editor, camera operator and special effects man.

Carlos Gallardo is not only the star (the titular Mariachi) but also producer, unit production manager, dolly grip, and special effects man.

Rodriguez makes excellent use of several rundown locations, particularly the jail sequence in the beginning of the film. I also liked some of the flavor like the man chopping ice with a machete.

The Professionals (yesterday) seemed a bit of a cheat as none of the heroes were Mexican, the lead villain was not played by a Mexican and it was not filmed in Mexico. El Mariachi not only takes place and is shot in Mexico but almost everyone working on the film is Mexican.

This is the dubbed version of the film. Robert Rodriguez stated that Columbia spent more on the dubbing than he did on the entire film.

The acting is good but not great. The charm is in the story itself and the rapid-fire pace that Rodriguez keeps up.

I highly recommend this fun low-budget film. The counting gag alone makes the movie. For that matter so does the bathtub confrontation.

People Watch: Carlos Gallardo appears in the semi-remake/semi-sequel Desperado as Campo.

From Dusk Till Dawn

Prior to sending up exploitation films with Grindhouse, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino filmed a vampire exploitation film called From Dusk Till Dawn. This movie is available on instant Netflix. The two sequels are not available but you aren’t missing much as Rodriguez didn’t direct the sequels and Tarantino didn’t write them.

From Dusk Till Dawn

WATCH: From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) – “Robbers-on-the-lam Seth (George Clooney) and Richard Gecko (Quentin Tarantino) take an ex-preacher (Harvey Keitel) and his kids hostage. On a race to the Mexican border, they rendezvous at a cantina, not knowing the owners and clientele are bloodthirsty vampires. That’s when director Robert Rodriguez (Desperado) abruptly switches from hostage drama to tongue-in-cheek, vampiric melee, creating a blood-stained ode to 1960s Mexican horror movies.”

This is a rude, crude and violent tale as might be expected from Tarantino and Rodriguez. Quentin Tarantino overacts as always but it comes off well here as do George Clooney and Harvey Keitel in more restrained performances. It takes a good long while for the vampires to show up but once they do, it’s a non-stop thrill ride. There are small, fun over-the-top performances from the lovely Salma Hayek, Danny Trejo, make-up wizard Tom Savini, and Fred “The Hammer” Williamson. The special effects are lavish and over-the-top and they take a page from the Evil Dead book and use green blood to help with the ratings board.

People watchers: look for cameos by John Saxon and makeup artists Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger and a small role by Michael Parks as Earl McGraw (a role he repeats in Kill Bill and both parts of Grindhouse).