Eagle Eye

MPAA Rated – PG-13
It’s 1:57 Long
A Review by:
The Dude on the Right

Eagle Eye
Movie Stats & Links
Starring: Shia LaBeouf, Michelle Monaghan, Michael Chiklis, Billy Bob Thornton
MPAA Rated: PG-13
Released By: Paramount Home Entertainment
Release Date: 2008
Kiddie Movie: It might make them never use their cell phone again.
Date Movie: She might cuddle with you for comfort or just roll her eyes.
Gratuitous Sex: Nah.
Gratuitous Violence: There’s a lot of people who die, but you don’t see it.
Action: There’s a lot of people who die, but you don’t see it.
Laughs: Only for the absurdity of some of the scenes.
Memorable Scene: Who knew Morse Code could save the world.
Memorable Quote: “We’re already in mid-shitstorm.”
Directed By: D.J. Caruso

While watching “Eagle Eye” I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a day, a few years ago, when a group of friends were getting liquored up, watching a bunch of movies, namely “I, Robot,” “War Games,” “The Italian Job,” and maybe even “Enemy of the State,” and said to each other, in an altered state, “Dudes, we could make a movie combining all of these,” and then, you know what, they did. I would toss in “Live Free or Die Hard,” only I believe that movie was probably already in development by the time “Eagle Eye” was being drafted, but hey, you can’t say that the “Eagle Eye” tunnel scene isn’t reminiscent of the “Live Free or Die Hard” tunnel scene, just substitute a helicopter for a military drone aircraft?

Okay, maybe the premise for the story of “Eagle Eye” wasn’t developed in my fictional universe, but it does takes a lot of premises from a bunch of different movies, with the end result that computers really only do what they are programmed to do. “I, Robot” had the three rules for robots; “Eagle Eye” has the Preamble and Constitution. In the end computers just want to be our friends, and look out for us.

In terms of story, for this one you get Jerry (Shia LaBeouf) and Rachel (Michelle Monaghan). They are ordinary people, in fairly ordinary lives, and then, somehow, their lives become intertwined by the voice of a woman who seems to need them to carry out some dastardly deed. The voice dictates to Jerry instructions that get him in a jam with the FBI and then helps him escape from the FBI, while the voice also turns Rachel into a distraught mother with the fear of her son being killed, thus dictating her actions. And as the movie goes along, Jerry and Rachel can’t seem to figure out how this voice seems to be able to control just about every technological part of their lives, from subway trains to street lights, from junkyard robots to power grids, and in the middle of it all, we start to see a plot developing, which we must suppose is some dastardly terrorist plot, but, ahh, other things are at work here.

And you know what, I’m not going to directly give away what is directly at work here, although I sort of already hinted at it, only to say that most every aspect of this movie is unbelievable in our world, yet somehow believable if the “ringleader” of this story turns out to be who she is.

So, here we go. If you want to totally escape reality, “Eagle Eye” should take you there, or maybe freak you out as to what might be possible in a few years. The weird thing is that I kind of liked it, in the same way I liked the movie “I, Robot,” and loved Morgan (Billy Bob Thornton) as the FBI guy who is flustered by technology. There are a lot of things blowing up, you might wonder if someone can really change stoplights at will, who knew that the baggage handling of an area could be so much fun if you aren’t being shot at, and if you live near some electric towers, you might think about moving.

As a Chicago person, in a little aside for this review, in the theater I was unsure if I saw it, but thanks to the DVD and slow-motion, at the beginning of the movie there is a helicopter shot of the Chicago El, St. James Catholic Church in Chicago (where I used to go to mass sometimes when I was in college), and Keating Hall, the “sports center” where I used to do a killer can-opener of the high-dive board in the pool at Illinois Institute of Technology, where, yes, I went to college, and also where all of this reviewing stuff began for me. I know it’s dorky, but for me it’s always cool to see things I am totally familiar with in a movie.

Anyway, “Eagle Eye” is an action-filled movie with tons of seemingly implausible scenarios, but get the DVD realizing this and you should have a good time on your couch, and sure, you might laugh when some things happen, but hey, that’s what movies are sometimes about. And as hard as this might be hard to believe, I was almost ready to give this movie a 4 star rating, until, in Hollywood fashion, the poignant ending I envisioned was changed into a feel-good ending, so I’m dropping it ½ star to 3 ½ stars out of 5 because someone else in this movie should be dead. With that, I was hoping, when watching the DVD, that the alternate ending it contained would be the one I was hoping for, but all it really did was sort of set up a sequel. Blah.

And speaking of the DVD, for the movie-geek crowd, the 2-disc version does have quite a few extras that are interesting if you love seeing how movies are made, especially mixing in seeing behind-the-scene things on location, a nicely detailed “Making of…” features, and a feature with the Director of Eagle Eye, D.J. Caruso, having a discussion with John Badham, the director of “War Games,” with how the movies are similar, yet different. I always love a fun gag-reel and the 2-disc version has it, and as usual, we can see (and be happy) that some scenes were deleted. You also get commentary stuff, if you want it, more scary stuff about your cell phone, and I’m just sad they didn’t have an “On Location…” for Chicago. Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to like looking at my old church from above.

That’s it for this one! I’m The Dude on the Right!! L8R!!!

Machine Gun Preacher

MPAA Rated – R
It’s 2:09 Long
A Review by:
The Dude on the Right

Machine Gun Preacher
Movie Stats & Links
Starring: Gerard Butler, Michelle Monaghan
MPAA Rated: R
Released By: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainmnet
Release Date: June 5, 2012
Kiddie Movie: Lots of brutal violence – send them to bed!
Date Movie: She might get frightened and hold you.
Gratuitous Sex: There’s some getting it on but this one is R for the violence.
Gratuitous Violence: Did I mention the brutal violence yet?
Action: Not really any action in this one, just gunfights.
Laughs: Nope.
Memorable Scene: When the little boy shows Sam he might be going down the wrong life road at his orphanage.
Memorable Quote: Lynn to Sam: “Now get off your butt, stop your crying, and build it again.”
Directed By: Marc Forster
Cool things about the Blu-ray: Nothing, really. There is a weirdly added “Making the Music” feature, and a short segement with MarcForster explaining how he made the movie.

When “Machine Gun Preacher” was hitting theaters I heard a couple of interviews, heard the synopsis, and heard a couple of people on the radio that liked the movie, especially Gerard Butler’s portrayal of Sam Childers, and sort of wanted to see the movie for myself even if most of the normal reviewers weren’t so kind. It came and went out of the theater, and I missed the chance on the big screen so when the Blu-ray showed up for me to review, I was excited to see it – My wife, not so much. Violent movies aren’t really her cup of tea, so I watched “Machine Gun Preacher” on my own, and most critics be damned, me, I really liked it.

Let’s get to the story…

The movie is based on the life of Sam Childers, a man whose life was heading down the wrong path, filled with drugs, alcohol, and biker gangs, and a wife, Lynn (Michelle Monaghan in the movie), who started as a stripper but then found God. Sam’s (in the movie played by Gerard Butler) life is about to explode in total badness until he, too, finds God while attending church with his wife. He also hears the story of life in the Africa, how they need help with even the most basic of necessities, and finds himself first in Uganda with the missionaries, building homes for the refugees, but Sudan is calling him, and against the advice of many he travels to the land run by Joseph Kony and the LRA, finding a world of unspeakable horror, and feels he is called to build an orphanage in direct competition with the atrocities of Kony and his men, and with the help of his wife, founding and running the Angels of East Africa organization.

There isn’t a lot very pretty about this movie, only that no matter where they are, no matter the atrocities around them, sometimes the joy of children can bring light to the darkest days. It gives a brutal look, and I mean brutal, at the atrocities occurring in the Sudan, as well as intertwines a movie about a man, Sam, who is torn between his life in the safety of the United States with his wife and daughter or trying to help the innocents of a nation, and as we see the movie progress, he doesn’t do that well on the home front for awhile, but thankfully Lynn is a strong woman and Sam figures it out.

We hear the horror stories of things going on in the Sudan, but you won’t see most of it on TV, although you might see a viral video about it, and sure, “Machine Gun Preacher” is a movie adaptation of Sam Childers’ life and the brutalities happening in the Sudan, and maybe I’m totally wrong, but most of it seems scarily true to form, from villages being burned to the ground (including the people inside), and the journey of one man on his own quest for redemption.

I found Gerard Butler awesome in his role, delicately working the transformation from biker gang dude to, well, still a dude with a mean streak but now using it for good. A nurse warns him that Joseph Kony started recruiting his followers in much the same way Sam was starting to do, but thankfully the children help keep Sam on the path of being a better man.

I really liked the movie, so much so I give it 4 stars out of 5. There is a lot of brutal violence, but then again, a movie telling of the atrocities in the Sudan couldn’t really portray the story without it.

Blu-ray and DVD-wise there is an extra about “Making the Music” for “Machine Gun Preacher”, which I found an odd addition, especially since I’m thinking there aren’t too many people getting this movie for the music, and even on the Blu-ray there isn’t much else, just an added extra with Marc Forster, the Producer/Director of the movie, who pretty much tells you everything you would think of about the making of the movie.  Get this Blu-ray for how awesome it looks, even the violence, on your big screen, and to appreciate the acting of Gerard Butler a little more.

That’s it for this one! I’m The Dude on the Right!! L8R!!!

Source Code

MPAA Rated – PG-13
It’s 1:33 Long
A Review by:
The Dude on the Right

Source Code
Movie Stats & Links
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga
MPAA Rated: PG-13
Released By: Summit Entertainment
Release Date: July 26, 2011
Kiddie Movie: Not too young, they may never ride a train again.
Date Movie: It’s a good movie for you to snuggle on the couch.
Gratuitous Sex: Nah.
Gratuitous Violence: There is some killing and, well, the train does blow up a number of times.
Action: There is some chasing, but nothing crazy.
Laughs: A chuckle here and there.
Memorable Scene: The ending e-mail.
Memorable Quote: Nothing stood out.
Directed By: Duncan Jones

As the credits started to roll when my wife and I were watching “Source Code,” she simply said, “Is there some extra special feature on there that will explain what the fuck they meant?” Happily, on the “Source Code” Blu-ray, there is, but sadly it’s embedded in the “Access: Source Code” feature, which pretty much makes you watch the entire movie, again.  She didn’t have time for that and relied on my infinite knowledge of the space-time continuum for an explanation, which, in transposing space and time, I basically shifted the conversation to “Did you like the movie?” She did. And so did I.

Here’s the basics…

Jake Gyllenhaal is a soldier, Captain Colter Stevens, and he finds himself transported into the body of a man on a commuter train.  It seems that this train gets blown up, and through the magic of a government program, he can “infiltrate” the last eight minutes of a person’s life.  So, his new mission is to find out who blows up the train, or at least gather enough intel to prevent the second attack that is coming soon.  The problem is that Colter has to pretty much re-live this explosion over and over again, each time going back to his mission-control capsule to report on his findings.  The other problem is that, along the way, he finds himself falling for a train passenger, Christina (Michelle Monaghan – and who wouldn’t?), and also learns that in conjunction with re-living the last eight minutes of this mystery dude’s life, he can also manipulate the events happening along the way.

So, for our multiple train rides, we get Captain Stevens learning from each trip, falling in love, learning the true value of the “Source Code,” and hopefully saving Chicago from being blown-up.

You want the key to why I really liked “Source Code?” Well, the movie people didn’t get too crazy with stuff, and by that I mean that we don’t get a lot of back-story about Captain Stevens, just enough to pretty much know he is a good soldier and misses his father, we also don’t get too crazy in the back-story of Christina, and we also don’t get too crazy into the total science of the story.  Nope, like an action-packed version of the movie “Groundhog Day,” instead of Bill Murray continuing to go back until he learns about love, we get a mission of saving humanity, with a touch of love.  And I’ve got to say, as the movie was ending, I almost got a little weepy knowing the fate of Captain Stevens, or did I? And even better? The movie clocks in at about and hour and half, just long enough to give you a great movie, and not one of those movies where you get antsy thinking it’s about 15 minutes too long!

I don’t want to give too much of the movie away because the joy of this film is the journey Captain Stevens takes from his first infiltration to his final conclusion, and telling anything more would really ruin the fun.

Your wife might not understand it, hell, you probably won’t understand it either (although you’ll probably try to make something up to satisfy her and make her think you are super-smart), but just sit back, strap it in, and enjoy a movie that takes you on a wild ride, albeit it’s sort of the same ride over and over again, on the same train, for about an hour and half. But it sure is fun!  It’s 4 ½ stars out of 5 for “Source Code,” and not just because the commuter train blows up in front of my college alma mater, Illinois Institute of Technology.  It’s a great rental for the both of you to snuggle, and even the older kids to enjoy with you.

In terms of the extras, for the Blu-ray, most of them are embedded in the “Access: Source Code” feature, which is really cool even if you do have to watch the movie again.  During the movie, you will get pop-ups with movie trivia, interviews with the cast, and most importantly, experts telling you about time travel that might help explain the movie’s ending.