Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Several years after the events of the first film, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) are married and are both co-anchors for a prestigious news network in New York City. One day, Mack Tannen (Harrison Ford), the most famous nightly news anchor in New York, reveals that he is retiring. He intends to promote Veronica, making her the first female nightly news anchor in the history of television, and to fire Ron due to his continuously sloppy performance on air. Ron grows jealous of Veronica’s success and storms out of the house, leaving Veronica and his six-year-old son Walter (Judah Nelson).

Six months later, Ron is back in San Diego, but barely able to hold a job due to his depression. After being fired from Sea World and botching a suicide attempt, Ron accepts a job with GNN (Global News Network), the world’s first 24 hour news network, for GNN’s official launch. He reassembles his news team, finding Champ Kind (David Koechner), who owns a fried chicken store (that sells bats secretly to cut down on costs), Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), now a famous cat photographer, and Brick Tamland (Steve Carell), who is presumed dead but appears at his own funeral. They are assigned the unpopular late night timeslot while rival reporter Jack Lime (James Marsden) is put in a primetime slot. Meanwhile, Ron finds that Veronica is dating another man, a psychiatrist named Gary (Greg Kinnear) due to his absence.

As GNN launches, Ron decides to broadcast what the people want to hear, rather than what they need to hear, and devise a sensationalist and attention grabbing newscast. Their new approach to news proves to be a massive hit, beating Lime in ratings by a massive margin, and the other news networks begin to scramble to emulate them. Ron and his team are then promoted to primetime, where they enjoy much fame and fortune. Meanwhile, Ron catches the attention of GNN’s manager, Linda Jackson (Meagan Good) and they begin dating. Brick also meets a similarly eccentric GNN office worker named Chani (Kristen Wiig) and immediately falls in love. Ron begins to let his newfound fame get to his head, and he begins to neglect his parental obligations to Walter, angering Veronica. He also alienates Brian, Champ, and Brick. During a party celebrating GNN becoming the highest rated news network in the nation, Lime causes Ron to slip and suffer a head injury, becoming blind.

Unable to read the news, Ron isolates himself, but cannot adjust to living as a blind man. Veronica arrives with Walter, wanting to help Ron overcome his blindness. Ron bonds with his family, and overcomes his disability. Ron and his son rehabilitate a shark, who they name Doby. Ron finds out that Veronica was hiding that his doctor could perform an experimental procedure, leaves angrily, gets his sight restored, and returns to GNN.

Before his comeback, Ron is once again approached by Veronica, who pleads with him to attend Walter’s piano recital, as Walter had composed a piece in honor of Ron. At the same time, an exclusive news story comes in, requiring Ron to cover it. Ron goes to the set, where he proceeds to go on a rant criticizing news networks, including GNN, for focusing on ratings rather than the news and leaves the set, intending to go to Walter’s recital. However, he is intercepted by Jack Lime and the teams from a number of other national news networks, including Tannen, who want to kill him due to his fame. Burgundy’s friends then arrive to defend him and a massive free for all battle ensues. Despite the fighting, Ron manages to reach Walter’s recital in time.

Afterwards, Ron and his friends go to attend Brick and Chani’s wedding on the beach. Ron then sees Doby in the water, and swims out to meet him despite the warnings from his friends and family. Doby then attacks Ron, but he is saved when Baxter swims out and banishes Doby back to sea. Thanking Baxter, Ron swims back to shore where his friends and family are waiting for him.

REVIEW:

Sometimes you watch a film that such a joy that you don’t want it to end, but at the same time you feel that if it goes on too long or a sequel is forced upon the viewing public, it will besmirch the feeling you hold for said film. Out of nowhere, the star of said film appears in character on a late night talk show and announces that said sequel is in the works, giving you a feeling of excitement and hesitation at the same time. These are the thoughts I had about Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.

What is this about?

The ’70s are over, and the anachronistic Channel 4 news team — including newsman Ron Burgundy and his co-anchor and wife, Veronica Corningstone — tries to stay classy as they reassemble to join New York’s first 24-hour news channel.

What did I like?

The gang’s back together. For a film like this to work, you have to get all or at least most of the cast from the original to return. Without them, the magic just isn’t there. While I don’t doubt Will Ferrell could have made Ron Burgundy work in somewhere like, perhaps Australia, I just don’t think the film would have been as funny without the supporting cast returning from Anchorman.

News. In the world we live in where 24 hour news networks seem to be all the rage, especially in election years, I wonder why no one has really bothered to call them out on the lies and other b.s. that they spew over the airwaves. This film does just that, even going so far as to have them all have a “war” with each other. Pretty much the only thing this film doesn’t manage to do is bring up how politically biased certain networks seem to be, but I won’t get into that hot button topic.

Good. There is some new blood to be had in this film, most notably the addition of tough as nails (and fine as hell) Megan Good. The best way I can describe her character is Pam Grier-esque, but without kicking any ass. It’s all in the attitude, which she has plenty of. A ballbusting, African-American woman in charge of a brand new 24 hour news network in the late 70s. This was unheard of, and I’m glad the film touched on the topic, especially considering these characters views on things, but they didn’t go overboard with anything, even at the dinner. A dinner that could have very well, ended up being more like The Nutty Professor rather than The Cosby Show. Good, pardon the pun, sense prevailed, there and only Ferrell was over the top, which fits this character.

What didn’t I like?

Cameos. Sometimes a good cameo can tip the scales in the right direction for a film, especially if said cameo isn’t spoiled by internet trolls. However, there is a scene near the end of this film that is filled with cameos. The amount doesn’t bother me because had they all be spread out amongst the length of the film, not a word would have been said, but the fact that they were brought in at the last minute and rapid fire introduced to us made no sense, especially since some of these cameos are from some pretty big stars that you would never imagine in a Will Ferrell film!

Dylan. No matter what role I see him in, I always feel a bit sorry for Dylan Baker. The Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies were building him up to become The Lizard and I believe that the 4th one was going to the one where he became the supervillain, but that was not to be. I see him in this film and, because of the goatee and sunglasses, he is unrecognizable. I appreciate the look he was going for, but why did he have to look like the love child of Jack Nicholson and Peter Dinklage?!?

Shark. In an effort to make Ron Burgundy some sort of human, he has an accident and loses his sight. Yes, it is as random and implausible as it sounds, but remember what movie you’re watching. During, this time, he gets reconnected with his estranged wife and son. They save and baby shark that is caught in a net and nurse it back to health and then it appears in the final scene, but I won’t spoil the ending. The term “jumping the shark” doesn’t apply here, but rather “saving the shark”. Why a shark, of all things?!? I didn’t get it, but I’m not one of these sheep obsesses with sharks (like everyone that drools over “Shark Week” every year).

Final verdict on Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues? Well, it suffers from sequelitis. The jokes that worked in the first have gotten old and the film is searching to find a new voice. Steve Carrell’s character, Brick, has been reduced to nothing but stupid one lines. There is heart to be found here, but you have to search real hard. That being said, there is still plenty to enjoy with this flick, so I do recommend it. I didn’t get the chance to watch the unrated version with all the extras and whatnot, but something tells me that is the version you would want to watch, mush as it is with Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Give it a shot sometime!

4 out of 5 stars

Frozen

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 19, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Elsa, princess of Arendelle, possesses the magical ability to create ice and snow. One night while playing, she accidentally injures her younger sister, Anna. The king and queen seek help from the troll king, who heals Anna and removes her memories of Elsa’s magic. The royal couple isolates the children in their castle until Elsa learns to control her powers. Afraid of hurting Anna again, Elsa spends most of her time alone in her room, causing a rift between the girls as they grow up. When the girls are teenagers, their parents die at sea during a storm.

When Elsa comes of age, the kingdom prepares for her coronation. Among the guests is the Duke of Weselton, who seeks to exploit Arendelle for profit. Excited to be allowed out of the castle again, Anna explores the town and meets Prince Hans of the Southern Isles, and the two immediately develop a mutual attraction. Despite Elsa’s fear, her coronation goes off without incident. During the reception, Hans proposes and Anna hastily accepts. However, Elsa refuses to grant her blessing and forbids their sudden marriage. The sisters argue, culminating in the exposure of Elsa’s abilities during an emotional outburst.

Panicking, Elsa flees the castle, while inadvertently unleashing an eternal winter on the kingdom. High in the nearby mountains, she casts off restraint, building herself a solitary ice palace, and unknowingly brings to life her and Anna’s childhood snowman, Olaf. Meanwhile, Anna sets out in search of her sister, determined to return her to Arendelle, end the winter, and mend their relationship. While obtaining supplies, she meets mountain man Kristoff and his reindeer Sven. She convinces Kristoff to guide her up the North Mountain. The group then encounters Olaf, who leads them to Elsa’s hideaway.

Anna and Elsa reunite, but Elsa still fears hurting her sister. When Anna persists in persuading her sister to return, Elsa becomes agitated and accidentally strikes Anna in the heart with her powers. Horrified, Elsa creates a giant snow creature to drive Anna, Kristoff, and Olaf away. As they flee, Kristoff notices Anna’s hair is turning white, and deduces something is very wrong. He seeks help from the trolls, his adoptive family, who explain that Anna’s heart has been frozen. Unless it is thawed by an “act of true love”, she will become frozen solid forever. Believing that only Hans can save Anna, Kristoff races back with her to Arendelle.

Meanwhile, Hans, leading a search for Anna, reaches Elsa’s palace. In the ensuing battle against the Duke’s men, Elsa is knocked unconscious and imprisoned back at the kingdom. There, Hans pleads with her to undo the winter, but Elsa confesses she doesn’t know how. When Anna reunites with Hans and begs him to kiss her to break the curse, Hans refuses and reveals that his true intention in marrying her was to seize control of Arendelle’s throne. Leaving Anna to die, he charges Elsa with treason for her younger sister’s apparent death.

Elsa escapes and heads out into the blizzard on the fjord. Olaf finds Anna and reveals Kristoff is in love with her; they then escape onto the fjord to find him. Hans confronts Elsa and tells her Anna is dead because of her. In Elsa’s despair, the storm suddenly ceases, giving Kristoff and Anna the chance to find each other. However Anna, seeing that Hans is about to kill Elsa, decides to throw herself between the two just as she freezes solid, blocking Hans’ attack.

As Elsa grieves for her sister, Anna begins to thaw, since her decision to sacrifice herself to save her sister constitutes an “act of true love”. Realizing love is the key to controlling her powers, Elsa is able to thaw the kingdom and even helps Olaf survive in summer. Hans is sent back to the Southern Isles to face punishment for his crimes against the royal family of Arendelle, and Elsa cuts off trade with Weselton. Anna and Kristoff share a kiss, and the two sisters reconcile; Elsa promises never to shut the castle gates again.

REVIEW:

It was recently brought to my attention that Disney had shut down their traditional animation department. Now, everything will be done by computers, except for the stuff on Disney Channel and Disney X D such as Phineas & Ferb. With this news, I was ready to boycott Frozen, until I heard how great it was. Curiosity has gripped me since its release back in November, and now it is time to see what all the hype was about.

What is this about?

After her kingdom is doomed to suffer from eternal winter, intrepid Anna goes on a quest to find her reclusive sister, the Snow Queen, and break the curse. Along the way, Anna teams with eccentric mountaineer Kristoff and his comic reindeer, Sven.

What did I like?

Powers. This has been a fairly rough winter here in the states. I think we can all agree on that point. Hell, it even snowed…twice…down here in south Louisiana!!! What does this have to do with anything? Well, Else has massive amounts of ice power. Aside from the Game of Thrones memes that were going around, a running joke was that someone has pissed off Else and she was making everything so cold. I got a chuckle out of it, but not that I’ve watched the film and saw what immense power she has, it makes more sense. Want to know how much power she has? If you’re a comic book fan, think of the amount of power Jean Grey and/or Storm have when they aren’t in control and mix that with Iceman’s power and you have Elsa.

Writing. Not to take anything away from the latest Pixar creations, but Disney animation seems to have stepped up their game while Pixar seems to be falling off. Of course, John Lassiter, who was head of Pixar is now leading Disney, so that could be a part of it, right? At any rate, this is the kind of story we would expect in the days when Disney was still alive or during the Disney Renaissance, arguably the two best eras for Disney animation. Each of these characters is well developed and thought out and, as an audience, we can share the emotions that they seem to be going through. Lesser Disney films would have just stuck a funny sidekick in there to distract from the film’s flaws.

Musical. What was the last true musical that we saw on the big screen, animated or otherwise? I’m tempered to say Les Miserables, but I think there has been something in between that I just can’t think of right now. Having a film that actually delivers on being a fairytale musical the way Disney used to do. Of course, it is hard to escape the film’s most popular song, “Let It Go”, which is belted out with authority by Idina Menzel in what can be described as the flick’s showstoping musical number.

What didn’t I like?

Olaf. Enter the token comic relief character, a friendly little snowman named Olaf. What is wrong with the guy? Well, nothing really, except that he mysteriously appears, conveniently, when things start getting too serious. I’m all for comic relief, and the way they use Olaf was sparingly, but he was never really brought to life, especially when it was shown that Elsa’s giant bodyguard snowman was brought to life. Maybe I’m just nitpicking, though.

Baddie. A fairytale without your typical antagonist looming over everything just doesn’t have the same effect. Take out the likes of Jafar, Maleficent, Ursala, Capt. Hook etc., and see what you have? Not much of a story, right? By not having a true antagonist, at least until the end, this film manages to cover new ground by making one of the protagonists an ersatz antagonist, even though she does nothing to make her one. That is just the result of the way the townspeople treated her as she ran out of town, and of course the fact that she built a castle of solitude (a quite impressive one, I might add) probably played into that ideal.

Wicked. Maybe it is just my  desire for a Wicked movie, but I felt as if this had similar themes. That isn’t bad, but when you cast Idina Menzel, is was a bit of a tease. I wonder if they had Kristin Chenoweth in mind for Anna, because that would have just been a giant cock tease for everyone. All that aside, the similar themes aren’t exact, so don’t misunderstand me, but the sisters trying to help reminded me of that Broadway play and yes, I know that is a bit of a stretch.

I still miss traditional hand drawn animation, but if there was going to be a film that could convert me, perhaps Frozen would be it (but not likely). I don’t want to poo poo all over this film, but I honestly don’t see why everyone is so ga ga over it. Yes, it is really good and entertaining, but the way people are reacting to it, one would think it was done by ghost of Walt Disney himself. Still, it is nice to see a film that goes back to fairytale musical that works so well. Maybe this is the start of another Disney Renaissance? Do I recommend this? Yes, very enthusiastically. I would even venture to say this is a must see before you die kind of film!

4 3/4 out of 5 stars

The Fat Spy

Posted in Classics, Comedy, Movie Reviews, Spoofs & Satire with tags , , , , , on April 17, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

A mostly-deserted island, which is believed to be the home to the fountain of youth, is off the coast of Florida. The island gets some visitors in the form of a teenage boy band, “the Wild Ones”, and their gang of swimsuit-clad young people, who head there in a crowded powerboat ostensibly for a scavenger hunt. However, they spend about half their screen time crooning to each other, or dancing on the beach.

The island’s wealthy owner, Wellington (Brian Donlevy) recruits his blonde bombshell daughter, Junior (Jayne Mansfield), to remove the teenagers from the island. Junior is eager to see her love interest (and the island’s only resident), rotund toupee-wearing botanist Irving (Jack E. Leonard). However, Irving is more interested in flowers and his bicycle than in the amorous Junior. Wellington asks Irving to spy on the teenagers, which he does by donning a sweatshirt that reads “Fink University”, and “getting their trust” by joining them in dancing the Turtle. Meanwhile, Irving’s twin brother Herman (also Jack E. Leonard, without a toupee), Wellington’s trusted employee, plots with his love interest, the scheming harridan Camille Salamander (Phyllis Diller) to find the fountain of youth first.

REVIEW:

Before I begin my review of The Fat Spy, please join me in honoring the birthday of the late Jayne Mansfield, who would be turning 81 on Saturday. Now, this film is another of those pictures at the end of Jayne’s career that not many people remember. As a matter of fact, some try to forget, but as I learned with a couple of her other films, these can actually be better than people give them credit for. Unfortunately, I’m not so sure that is this case with this picture.

What is this about?

This over-the-top send-up of 1960s musical beach movies features a group of teenagers seeking the legendary Fountain of Youth on an island off Florida owned by a cosmetics magnate, who sends his daughter (Jayne Mansfield) to thwart their plans. Throw in some mermaids, spies, double-crosses and groovy music from The Wild Ones, and you’ve got a recipe for an unrelentingly campy good time.

What did I like?

Jayne. The buxom, blonde goddess really plays up that airhead character many of her contemporaries *COUGH* Marilyn Monroe *COUGH* had made so popular. You would think this would become grating and be too much to handle, but given the character and all the other randomosity going around, it really made her very likable. Of course, there is also a towel scene that will make you love her, too!

Title character. For some reason, I thought the titular fat spy was going to be Jayne. At the time of this release, she had been fluctuating in her weight, especially after giving birth to her children. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case and the fat spy is actually played by comedy legend Jack E. Leonard, who also plays his “evil” twin brother. His comedic timing and the humor he brings to both brothers is amazing. The brothers are totally opposite of each other, and so is the way Leonard portrays their sense of humor. One is a bumbling idiot and the other is more of the mean and sarcastic type.

At the beach. This is advertised as a campy beach parody and that is exactly what it is. Had I not watched a few beach movies, I don’t believe I would have seen the parody angle, but having watched some of those Annette Funicello/Frankie Avalon flicks, I see what the source material was. A bunch of kids come to the beach, start to dance around showing lots of skin, next thing you know they are involved in some plot on the island, insert love story, story with the adults, and then the happy ending. Formulaic, yes, but it worked for the time and was easy picking to be…um…picked on.

What didn’t I like?

Music. I love musicals, as can be seen if you go through my categories. That being said, in musicals, the songs make sense and are relevant to the story. Not the case with this film, though, as these songs are more random than the cutaways on Family Guy. Also, every chance they get, someone is singing, but for what reason? I just didn’t get it and felt like these songs were just filler and nothing more.

Connection. I’m a simple guy. I don’t really require much in the way of deep plots and such, but I do need to have a story that connects, which this film does not. One minute we’re watching teen frolicking, the next there is some conspiracy regarding the Fountain of Youth, and then there is something about a mermaid that is totally looked over. Had these things had some kind of connection, then I wouldn’t mind, but the sheer randomness of this film confused me. It almost seemed as if they wanted this to be a series of skits but at the last-minute changed it to one “cohesive” story.

Movie or show. As the film progresses, every now and then we get a title card. Going into the final act, it seems as if we get these as much as if this was a silent film. I was fine with this until it just became too much. Is this a movie or a TV show? I know the budget couldn’t have been very large for this flick, but that just made it look cheaper than it already was.

So, what is my final verdict on The Fat Spy? Well, I would say that I was disappointed, but that would be a lie. I didn’t go into this film with high expectations. As a matter of fact, they were very low, so it would be hard for me to come out of this disappointed. For me being a Jayne fan, I could have done with more of her and less of the teens, but at least this isn’t false advertising, unlike Jayne Mansfield’s Car. Do I recommend this? Not really. Unless you’re like me and want to see all of Jayne’s films, there is no reason to acknowledge this even exits.

2 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 4/17

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on April 17, 2014 by Mystery Man

It’s time for another edition of “Trailer Thursday”!

This week’s chosen year was 1995 (thanks Temeaka!)

Back in the mid-90s, a new group of superheroes took over the airwaves with the bright colors and various styles of martial arts, not to mention their “Zords”. I remember initially thinking they were nothing more than a Voltron ripoff, but after watching a few episodes I found out that I couldn’t be further from the truth. Here we are in 2014 and there have been numerous incarnations, but only the original, well not quite the original, but let’s borrow and adjective from the Transformers Universe and call them G1, got a movie….The Mighty Morphing Power Rangers: The Movie!

 

The Punisher (1989)

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , on April 16, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Frank Castle is the city’s most wanted, and most mysterious, vigilante, known as “The Punisher”. He has killed 125 people in the last 5 years. Castle is an ex-police officer, whose family was murdered in a mob hit. Living in the sewers and waging a one-man war against organized crime, his only friend is an old alcoholic named Shake, who speaks in rhyme for reasons unexplained. Now legally declared dead, Castle strikes back from beyond the grave, killing mobsters wherever he can find them. Due to his war against them, the Mafia families have weakened, forcing one of the family leaders, Gianni Franco, to come in and take control. Franco has a plan to bring the families together as one unit. This, however, has attracted the attention of the Yakuza, Asia’s most powerful crime syndicate. Led by Lady Tanaka, the Yakuza decide to take over the Mafia families and all of their interests. In order to sway the mobsters to their cause, they kidnap their children and hold them for ransom.

Shake pleads with the Punisher to save the children, who are likely to be sold into childhood slavery regardless of whether the Mafia give into the demands. While he is able to save most of the children with a .45 Thompson M1928 submachine gun, the Mafia leader’s son is taken away to the Yakuza headquarters. Furthermore, the Punisher is taken into custody by the police, only to be freed by Franco’s men. Franco persuades the Punisher to help him save his son, and stop the Japanese criminal underworld from taking root in America. Franco and the Punisher raid the Yakuza headquarters, fight and kill all the Yakuza, including Lady Tanaka and her daughter. Upon being reunited with his son, Franco betrays the Punisher in an effort to kill him, but the Punisher wins the duel, killing Franco. As the police arrive, Castle warns Franco’s son not to follow the sins of his father, and vanishes from the scene.

REVIEW:

Before the current superhero craze, there was a time when film studios were trying to get superheroes out to the public and recreate the success of Tim Burton’s Batman. I can’t think of any that were as big of a success as most were commercial flops and reviled in certain circles. This brings us to The Punisher, a character who is very difficult to bring to the big screen without watering the character down to a point in which he is unrecognizable. Did this film manage to do so?

What is this about?

The avenging angel of Marvel Comics fame comes to life in this action-adventure thriller. Dolph Lundgren stars as Frank Castle, a veteran cop who loses his entire family to a mafia car bomb. Only his ex-partner (Louis Gossett Jr.) believes Castle survived the blast. Frank becomes The Punisher, a shadowy, invincible fighter of evil who hides out in a labyrinth of sewers and lives for one purpose: to exact brutal revenge on his mob enemies.

What did I like?

Action.  This is obviously an 80s action flick, first and foremost, because the action is almost totally nonstop for the entire 90 minute runtime. Watching the fights, stunts, and whathaveyou was a pleasure. If there is one highlight to this flick, it is the action and stunts that take place. Seeing as this is a comic book movie, you shouldn’t really expect any less, though.

Violence. The Punisher is not called that for nothing. I was concerned before watching this that they would have watered him down to Saturday morning levels a la 90s Spider-Man cartoon. In some early scenes, though, we watch as he hangs a thug and then guns down the other thugs with blood spurting everywhere. Granted, it wasn’t as graphic as I believe would work better, it is still pretty damn fantastic.

What didn’t I like?

Skull. How can you have The Punisher without his trademark skull t-shirt? Both The Punisher and Punisher: War Zone, for whatever you think of them, at least Punisher was recognizable as The Punisher and not just some loony with guns, as he appears to be here. Who in the bloody blue hell took away the skull t-shirt and what was the reasoning behind it? It is really so unrealistic for a guy to be wearing a random skull t-shirt?

Rogues. Batman, Green Lantern, Spider-Man, Superman, The Flash, The X-Men, etc, all sport quite the impressive rogues gallery, but Punisher…not so much. He does have a few notable and colorful adversaries, though. I’m not saying that the mob and Yakuza aren’t formidable and intriguing, but we get so many films using them, it would have been nice to get a taste of some supervillain, instead. I think that is why I like Punisher: War Zone so much. As cheesy and over the top as it is, it doesn’t try to be a gritty detective film, but rather a violent action flick.

Say it ain’t so, Lou! Louis Gossett, Jr. is a fine actor and seeing him in this film gives one cause to pause. Why exactly is he in this? Does he owe someone involved with the making of it a favor? Is he just a fan of the character? Perhaps he needed the work? Whatever the case may be, this is a film that is beneath him. Watching the guy, you can tell he feels the same way, especially since he isn’t really given much to do. There are a couple of scenes in which he gets to shine, but that’s it. I can’t help but feel sorry for the guy having to do this film.

The Punisher was the first in 3 attempts to bring this character to the big screen and do him justice. Some have argued that while this is the worst film of the three, it does have the distinction of being the closest to the tone of the character. I’m not familiar enough with the character to argue with that, but I will say that this is not a good flick. It has its moments, but it isn’t a fun film to watch. Dolph Lundgren’s wooden acting theoretically works, as you don’t need to be the greatest actor to be Frank Castle, but he slips in and out of his accent which ruins it (Punisher is a die-hard New York guy) for me. Do I recommend this? No, but if you must watch because you want to view all 3 films, that is understandable. It is best to avoid this flick, though.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

 

Summer Stock

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , on April 16, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Jane Falbury (Judy Garland) is a farm owner whose actress sister Abigail (Gloria DeHaven) arrives at the family farm with her theater troupe. They need a place to rehearse, and Jane and her housekeeper Esme (Marjorie Main) reluctantly agree to let them use their barn. The actors and actresses, including the director Joe Ross (Gene Kelly), repay her hospitality by doing chores around the farm. Although Joe is engaged to Abigail, he begins to fall in love with Jane after Abigail leaves him in an angry fit. Similarly, although Jane is engaged to Orville (Eddie Bracken), she falls in love with Joe.

REVIEW:

So, Friday night, I was at a friend’s house and Summer Stock came on, but because I was so sick, I fell asleep and couldn’t enjoy it. Now, for me to not enjoy a Gene Kelly film, it either has to not be that great or something is wrong with me. This go around, it was the latter. So, with this being the second opportunity to watch this in past 5 days, what did I think?

What is this about?

Jane Falbury (Judy Garland) thinks she’s doing her sister, Abigail (Gloria DeHaven), a favor by allowing her troupe of summer stock actors to use her barn as a theater. But when Jane meets her sister’s fiancé, director Joe Ross (Gene Kelly), she realizes she’s made a big mistake. She finds herself falling for him in this 1950 musical, which was Garland’s last with Kelly, a longtime collaborator, and features her performance of “Get Happy.”

What did I like?

Together again. Gene Kelly and Judy Garland have a nice chemistry when they are together on screen. I won’t say it is the greatest, because I’ve seen better, but there is a mutual respect between the two that shows. The last film I saw starring these two, For Me and My Gal, was actually their first pairing. The years since then have done nothing but improve not only the acting, dancing, and singing of Kelly and Garland, but also their ability to play off of each other.

Dance. With every Gene Kelly film, you get a fantastic dance scene or scenes. This is one of those in which Kelly is dancing every chance he gets, and not a single one of those moments will have you bored. The two scenes that stick out the most in my mind are a pseudo-challenge scene that happens in the barn between he and Judy Garland’s character and, even more impressive, is the solo scene Kelly does on the creaky stage using newspaper. Who would have ever thought to dance with a newspaper? Go look this scene up on Youtube and you’ll see why it is so impressive. Nothing fancy or spectacular about it, just Gene doing his best tap dancing in a darkened barn, but it is so meticulous you can’t help but watch in awe.

Work. Most of the time in cinema, we will see a group of actors or similar group move into a farm and all they do is leech off the people who are nice enough to let them stay there. That isn’t the case with the film as Judy Garland’s no-nonsense character puts them all to work. Granted, it is a total disaster, but at they tried, right?

What didn’t I like?

Tone it down. I’m the last person to complain about the comic relief, but there is such a thing as too much. Phil Silver is an accomplished comedian, yes, but he just was a bit too much for this film. Had this been a Jerry Lewis picture, it might have fit, but as it is his over the top, in your face comedic stylings just seemed out of place.

Wait for weight. In the film’s big number, “Get Happy”, Judy Garland slips into a leotard tuxedo and stockings, but also looks noticeably slimmer. Apparently, this scene was filmed 2 months following completion of the rest of the film. Kudos to Garland for dropping the lbs, especially given what was going in her life at the time, but the noticeable difference hurt the film for me, especially since a couple of scenes later, I do believe we get another shot of her, but back at the size she is for the rest of the film. Also, as much as I love this song, it does seem a bit out of place with the show they were putting on. It was like if you were listening to a country compilation and all of a sudden you hear Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller, or some other big band music.

Weak. Don’t get me wrong, but I came out of this film feeling as if the plot wasn’t as strong as it probably could have been. There is a love story, or rather a love square that is hinted at but never really executed until the finale. By that time, the audience is more concerned with how the show is going, rather than the personal lives of a few of the stars. The random way in which the actors are brought in and shown to be inept on the farm could have been expanded on, rather than one and done. I guess I just wanted a plot that seemed like it wasn’t done in a weekend over a couple of pots of coffee.

I knew there was a reason I wanted to watch Summer Stock again after my experience on Friday. This is another fun musical that stars Gene Kelly and will make you want to go out and sign up for dance lessons so that you can at least pretend to be the man. Do I recommend this picture? Yes, very highly! There is nothing in here that could offend anyone and the only real issue anyone may have is that the outfits are a bit dated, the redneck show could be construed as offensive, and this is an older picture, which seems to turn people off. If you can get past those things, then this is the film for you, so check it out and have some fun!

4 3/4 out of 5 stars

Gravity

Posted in Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , on April 13, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film is set during fictitious space shuttle mission STS-157. Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is a medical engineer on her first space shuttle mission aboard the space shuttle Explorer. She is accompanied by veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), who is commanding his final expedition. During a spacewalk to service the Hubble Space Telescope, Mission Control in Houston warns the team about a Russian missile strike on a defunct satellite, which has caused a chain reaction forming a cloud of debris in space. Mission Control orders that the mission be aborted and the shuttle begin re-entry immediately. Communication with Mission Control is lost shortly after.

High-speed debris strikes the Explorer and Hubble, and detaches Stone from the shuttle, leaving her tumbling through space. Kowalski, using a Manned Maneuvering Unit, soon recovers Stone and they make their way back to the Space Shuttle. They discover that it has suffered catastrophic damage and the crew is dead. They use the thruster pack to make their way to the International Space Station (ISS), which is in orbit only about 1,450 km (900 mi) away. Kowalski estimates they have 90 minutes before the debris field completes an orbit and threatens them again.

En route to the ISS, the two discuss Stone’s home life and the death of her young daughter. Her daughter was playing tag and she slipped and hit her head on the concrete causing her early death. As they approach the substantially damaged but still operational ISS, they see its crew has evacuated in one of its two Soyuz modules. The parachute of the remaining Soyuz has deployed, rendering the capsule useless for returning to Earth. Kowalski suggests using it to travel to the nearby Chinese space station Tiangong, 100 km (60 mi) away and board one of its modules to return safely to Earth. Out of air and maneuvering power, the two try to grab onto the ISS as they fly by. Stone’s leg gets entangled in Soyuz’s parachute cords and she grabs a strap on Kowalski’s suit. Despite Stone’s protests, Kowalski detaches himself from the tether to save her from drifting away with him, and she is pulled back towards the ISS while Kowalski floats away.

Stone enters the ISS via an airlock. She cannot re-establish communication with Kowalski and concludes that she is the sole survivor. A fire breaks out, forcing her to hastily make her way to the Soyuz. As she maneuvers the capsule away from the ISS, the tangled parachute tethers prevent the Soyuz from separating from the station. She spacewalks to release the cables, succeeding just as the debris field completes its orbit and destroys the station. Stone aligns the Soyuz with Tiangong but discovers that its engine has no fuel. After a brief radio communication with a fisherman on Earth, Stone resigns herself to being stranded and shuts down the cabin’s oxygen supply to commit suicide. As she begins to lose consciousness, Kowalski enters the capsule. Scolding her for giving up, he tells her to rig the Soyuz’s landing rockets to propel the capsule toward Tiangong. Stone then realizes that Kowalski’s reappearance is not real, but has nonetheless given her the strength of will to carry on. She restores the flow of oxygen and uses the landing rockets to navigate toward Tiangong, which is rapidly deorbiting.

Unable to dock the Soyuz with the station, Stone ejects herself via explosive decompression and uses a fire extinguisher as a makeshift thruster to travel to Tiangong. Stone enters the Shenzhou capsule just as Tiangong starts to break up on the upper edge of the atmosphere. Stone declares that she is ready to head back to Earth, dead or alive. After re-entering the atmosphere, Stone hears Mission Control, which is tracking the capsule, over the radio. The capsule lands in a lake, but dense smoke from an electrical fire inside the capsule forces Stone to evacuate immediately. She opens the capsule hatch, allowing water to enter and sink it, forcing Stone to swim ashore. She watches the remains of the Tiangong re-enter the atmosphere and takes her first shaky steps on land, in the full gravity of Earth.

REVIEW:

One of the best reviewed and lauded film of 2013 was Gravity. A very minimalist film, if you’ve ever seen one, there have been comparisons to another small space film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, except this one isn’t as long and boring…or is it?

What is this about?

As a medical engineer on her first shuttle mission embarks on a space walk with a seasoned astronaut, debris strikes their craft and destroys it — leaving the two floating through space tethered together, with no connection to Earth.

What did I like?

Rubbernecking. Watching everything that happens to Sandra Bullock in this film is like seeing a car wreck on the interstate. It is something that will catch your eye, even if you know that had this been a real situation you should look away. I was fascinated with how well the film was able to convey the sense of dread Bullock’s character had to be facing as things were becoming more and more bleak out in the nothingness of space.

Visuals. Saying this picture has stunning visuals would be an understatement, as the visual effects take the audience and transport them into space with Bullock and Clooney. Switching the camera to the occasional first person viewpoint didn’t hurt, either. Words can’t describe how much the visuals sell this film. Had they not been as great and impressive, I don’t think this would have been as well-received by audiences. I wonder what this would have looked like in 3D. It may be the first film to actually have been worth the extra ticket price, unlike almost every single other 3D release.

Going solo. When you are the only person in a powerful and/or pivotal scene, it is hard enough on the nerves to give a strong performance, but when  you are the only person on screen for more than half of the film, it is really difficult, I can imagine. That being said, Sandra Bullock holds her own and turns in a strong performance that will leave the audience with no doubt in their minds as to why she was nominated for Best Actress.

What didn’t I like?

Pacing. This is a tricky topic, because the pacing isn’t necessarily slow, especially for a film this short, but there is something that felt a little uneven to me. Perhaps it was the way the film kept rotating around, or the attempts at comedy that were present when Clooney was on screen, or maybe it was something else, but whatever it was that I can’t quite put my finger on, it needed to be fixed.

Body of work. This is actually a small complaint, but why was Sandra Bullock wearing such short, tight shorts? Don’t get me wrong, she has an amazing figure and all, but to put her in such attire seemed to distract. I bring this up because these same shorts are featured on an alternate poster, so it was obviously meant for them to capitalize on Bullock’s sex appeal. For me, this is not the film to be doing such. Maybe she should have switched these shorts with those Spanx she was wearing in The Heat.

Murphy’s Law. It would seem that the events occurring in this film follow Murphy’s Law, “whatever can go wrong, will go wrong!” For the purposes of this flick, it works, but I couldn’t help but think to myself, can she catch a break? It seems that everytime she was able to catch her breath, something else happened and put her into even more danger, making for a bleak film. I guess I just would have liked for there to have not been such an impending sense of doom the entire time. A glimmer of hope and then impending doom would have worked nicely.

Surprisingly, Gravity lived up to the hype and accolades everyone was throwing at it. Then again, when you have a sci-film that could very well happen (or have happened), critics tend to like those better than the fantastical type that the general public seems to prefer. That being said, I believe this is a film that is best seen in a 3D format, or as close to one as possible. Do I recommend it? Yes, but be warned, this isn’t some action packed space opera, but rather a character thriller that takes place in space. Give it a shot as soon as you can!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

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