The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Westerns with tags , , , , , , , , on December 12, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Senator Ransom “Ranse” Stoddard (James Stewart) and his wife Hallie (Vera Miles) arrive in the frontier town of Shinbone by train to attend the funeral of Tom Doniphon (John Wayne). As they make their way toward the undertaker’s establishment to pay their respects to the deceased, a reporter (Joseph Hoover) and his editor, Maxwell Scott (Carleton Young) approach and ask Stoddard to explain why a United States Senator would make the long journey from Washington just to attend the funeral of a local rancher.

Stoddard’s story flashes back 25 years to his arrival in Shinbone as a young, idealistic attorney. His stagecoach is robbed by a gang of outlaws led by Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin). When Stoddard takes Valance to task for robbing old ladies of their heirlooms, he is brutally beaten. In town, restaurant owner Peter Ericson (John Qualen), his wife Nora (Jeanette Nolan), and employee Hallie tend to his injuries, and explain that Shinbone’s townsfolk are regularly victimized by Valance. Link Appleyard (Andy Devine), the town marshal, has neither the courage nor the gunfighting skills to challenge Valance; Doniphon (who loves Hallie and plans to ask her to marry him) is the only man willing to stand up to him.

When Stoddard, the naive “pilgrim” (as Doniphon dubs him), opens a law practice in town, Doniphon and many others believe him crazy for inviting retribution from Valance, who cannot abide any challenge to his “authority”. Force, Doniphan explains, is the only thing Valance understands; he advises Stoddard to either flee the territory or buy a gun. Stoddard maintains he will do neither; he is an advocate for justice under the law, not brute force. He earns the town’s respect by refusing to knuckle under to Valance, and by founding a school to teach reading and writing to illiterate townspeople — including Hallie.

Stoddard does buy a gun, however; and when Doniphon sees that he is trying to teach himself to use it, he brings Stoddard to his house for a shooting lesson. During target practice he shoots a hole in a paint can, splattering paint on Stoddard’s suit, explaining that this is the sort of trickery that he can expect from Valance. Infuriated, Stoddard punches him in the jaw and leaves.

Shinbone’s residents meet to elect two delegates for a statehood convention at the territorial capital. Doniphon nominates Stoddard for one of the positions, because he “knows the law, and throws a mean punch”. Stoddard addresses the group, explaining that statehood will benefit the people of the territory through improvements in infrastructure, safety, and education. The area’s cattle barons, who oppose statehood and the new regulations that it would bring, hire Valance to sabotage the effort. He interrupts the meeting and attempts to bully the townspeople into electing him as a delegate, but Stoddard defies him yet again. The townspeople elect Stoddard and Dutton Peabody (Edmond O’Brien), publisher of the local newspaper, prompting Valance to challenge Stoddard to a gunfight. Doniphon again advises Stoddard to leave town, but Stoddard maintains that he still believes in the rule of law (even though Link will do nothing to help him), and he is willing to risk his life for his principles.

That evening, after Valance and his gang (Lee Van Cleef and Strother Martin) assault Peabody and trash his newspaper office, Stoddard goes into the street to face Valance. Valance toys with Stoddard, shooting a pottery vase near his head, and then his right arm, knocking his gun to the ground. He condescendingly allows Stoddard to retrieve his gun. The next bullet, he says, will be “right between the eyes”; but Stoddard fires first, and to everyone’s shock, Valance falls dead. Doniphon watches Hallie as she lovingly cares for Stoddard’s wounds, then heads for the saloon to drown his sorrows. At his homestead, in a drunken rage, he sets fire to the addition that he has just finished in anticipation of asking Hallie to marry him. His ranch hand, Pompey (Woody Strode), rescues him from the inferno, but the house is destroyed.

At the statehood convention, Peabody nominates Stoddard as the territory’s delegate to Washington, but his “unstatesmanlike” conduct is challenged by a rival candidate. Stoddard decides that his opponent is right; he cannot be entrusted with public service after killing a man in a gunfight. Seeing Stoddard’s reluctance, Doniphon takes him aside and confides that he, Doniphon, actually killed Valance from an alley across the street, firing at the same time as Stoddard. Doniphon explains that he knows Hallie loves Stoddard; he shot Valance to secure her happiness. Reinspired, Stoddard returns to the convention, accepts the nomination, and is elected to the Washington delegation.

The flashback ends, and Stoddard fills in the intervening years: He married Hallie, and then, on the strength of his reputation as “the man who shot Liberty Valance”, became the first Governor of the newly minted state. He then served as Ambassador to Great Britain before his election to the U.S. Senate. Scott now knows the truth about Valance’s death; but after some reflection he throws his notes into the fire. “This is the West, sir,” he explains. “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” On the train back to Washington, Stoddard informs Hallie, to her delight, that he has decided to retire from politics and practice law in Shinbone. When Stoddard tells the train conductor (Willis Bouchey) that he will write to railroad officials, thanking them for their many courtesies in expediting his trip back to Washington, the conductor replies, “Nothing’s too good for the man who shot Liberty Valance!”


There’s a song from the 60s or 70s entitled “Who Shot Liberty Valance.” When I first saw this flick in a bargain bin somewhere years ago, that’s what immediately popped in my head. Now, years later, it still pops in there but, after watching this fine film, there may be other things that will accompany that catchy tune when speaking of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

What is this about?

When Senator Ransom Stoddard returns home to Shinbone for the funeral of Tom Doniphon, he recounts to a local newspaper editor the story behind it all. He had come to town many years before, a lawyer by profession. The stage was robbed on its way in by the local ruffian, Liberty Valance, and Stoddard has nothing to his name left save a few law books. He gets a job in the kitchen at the Ericson’s restaurant and there meets his future wife, Hallie. The territory is vying for Statehood and Stoddard is selected as a representative over Valance, who continues terrorizing the town. When he destroys the local newspaper office and attacks the editor, Stoddard calls him out, though the conclusion is not quite as straightforward as legend would have it.

What did I like?

President Stewart. The more and more I see Jimmy Stewart films, the more I realize that this guy was more than just some tall, thin guy that was used to play the put upon roles, but rather someone who can actually act. Imagine that! In this film, we get him as a senator who, as we learn later in the film, has been in every political office one can have in the old west, save for law enforcement or President. Yet, this doesn’t stop him from delivering a series of eloquent speeches and monologues that could have been used in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, which I debated about watching this afternoon, strangely enough.

Grounded meat does not spaghetti. Let’s face it, westerns are just another fantasy like sci-fi, fantasy, and superhero flicks. Even when they are real, we turn the characters into such exaggerated caricatures of who they really were, that they become legends. Coincidentally, that topic is touched on in this film. I believe it is Stewart that utters the line, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” It could have been someone else, though. My point is that this is probably the most grounded and believable western I’ve seen in all my days, except maybe for something like The Searchers.

Pilgrim. John Wayne is known as having certain mannerisms and a way of speaking, such as calling people “pilgrim”, if we are to believe Peter Griffin’s impersonation of him from Family Guy. While that is an extreme exaggeration, the basis of it and what many people have come to associate Wayne with over time can be traced back to this film. This is The Duke in his prime, creating a character that commands the audience’s attention when he’s on the screen while not chewing up the scenery, not to mention some nuances involving lost love, tragedy, and just being a hardened lawman. I have to give it to Wayne, while some say that his characters became stale and repetitive, especially in his later years, one can’t deny that he seemed in his element and that he had fun with these roles.

What didn’t I like?

Be the law. So, Jimmy Stewart’s profession before he gets into politics is a lawyer…and teacher at a point later in the film. Here’s the thing, though. The guy goes through a variety of occupations adjusting to life after his attack at the hands of Liberty Valance, but he never really practices law. I guess there is no reason to, and with his law books gone, it would make it a bit difficult, but still, the guy is a lawyer, he should be doing law stuff.

You own a paper? Jimmy Stewart is in town for John Wayne’s character’s funeral, if you can call it that. As he comes into town, being a Senator, the newspaper has to get an interview. He grants said interview and then heads to the undertaker’s. Upon reaching the shop, he is accosted by the newspaper editor who all but demands he tell him the reason for his coming to town. Apparently, even in the old west, media felt they had the right to tell people every little detail of people’s lives, even if it meant disturbing a funeral to do so!

Friar Tuck. Disney’s Robin Hood ranks up there as one of my favorite films. One of those reasons is Friar Tuck. The man who lent his voice to that beloved badger, Andy Devine, seems to be the human version of what Friar Tuck looks like. That isn’t my issue with him, though. He is obviously comic relief, and that’s fine, but it seems as if they made him nothing more than your typical bungler. Had it not been for the drinking problem of the newspaper editor, I’m sure they would have given him that, too. All this is not to mention, he sure seems scared to death to confront Liberty Valance, or any criminal.

There is a hint of irony in the last line of this film, “Nothing’s too good for the man who shot Liberty Valance!”, seeing as how they just spent the whole film discussing said man. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance offers us much insight to our heroes, but not much in the way of telling us about the titular character of Liberty Valance. All we know about him is that he’s a big time criminal in them there parts. Other than wishing for a better understanding of this guy, I felt this was a pretty solid film. I’d say its a highly entertaining flick that needs to be in the collection of any one the collect western DVDs and Blu- Rays. I give this a very high recommendation. Take the time to check it out sometime!

4 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 12/11

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on December 11, 2014 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!

Ever have one of those days where you wish you could just shut your brain off and watch a movie? Today is one of those days for me, let me tell you!

I think this evening, I’m going to watch a film that requires no thinking whatsoever, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.

Oh, you’ve never heard of it? Well, have a look at the trailer and enjoy!



Posted in Horror, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , on December 7, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film takes place in two different times: the present and 11 years earlier. The two plotlines are told in parallel through flashbacks.

In 2002, software engineer Alan Russell moves into a new house with his wife Marie, 10-year-old son Tim, and 12-year-old daughter Kaylie. Alan purchases an antique mirror to decorate his office. Unbeknownst to them the mirror is supernatural and malevolent and induces hallucinations in both adults; Marie is haunted by visions of her own body decaying, while Alan is seduced by a ghostly woman named Marisol, who has mirrors in place of eyes.

Over time, the parents become psychotic, with Alan increasingly isolating himself in his office and Marie becoming withdrawn and paranoid. During the same period, all of the plants in the house die and the family dog disappears after being locked in the office with the mirror. After Kaylie witnesses Alan interacting with Marisol and tells her mother, Marie goes insane and attempts to kill her children. Alan overpowers her and chains her to their bedroom wall.

Alan remains isolated in his office for an indeterminate period of time; when the family runs out of food, the children attempt to seek help from their neighbors, who disbelieve their stories. Attempting to contact doctors or the authorities, Kaylie discovers that all of her phone calls are answered by the same man, who admonishes her to speak with her father.

One night, Alan unchains Marie, and both parents attack the children. Marie briefly comes to her senses, only to be shot dead by Alan. Alan corners the children in his office, but also experiences a moment of lucidity, during which he forces Tim to shoot him to death. The police arrive and take Tim into custody. Before the siblings are separated, they promise to reunite as adults and destroy the mirror. As Tim is taken away in the back of a squad car he sees the ghosts of his parents watching him from the house.

Eleven years later, Tim is discharged from a psychiatric hospital, having come to believe that there were no supernatural events involved in his parents’ deaths. Kaylie, meanwhile, has spent most of her young adulthood researching the history of the mirror, obsessively documenting the lives and deaths of everyone who’s ever owned it. Using her position as an employee of an auction house, Kaylie obtains access to the mirror and has it transported to the family home, where she places it in a room filled with surveillance cameras and a “kill switch”—an anchor weighted to the ceiling and set to a timer. Kaylie intends to destroy the mirror but first wants to document its powers proving its supernatural nature and thus vindicate her family.

Tim joins Kaylie at the house and attempts to convince his sister that she’s rationalized their parents’ deaths as being caused by an external force, in order to avoid facing the truth. The siblings argue for the duration of the evening until they find that the cameras in the room have inexplicably moved; reviewing the video, they realize that the mirror induced them to rearrange the contents of the room without their knowledge. Tim finally accepts that the mirror does have some diabolical power and attempts to escape the house with Kaylie, only for the pair to be repeatedly drawn back by the mirror’s influence. Trying to call the police for help, they are only able to reach the same voice who spoke to them on the phone as children. Kaylie accidentally kills her fiancé who she mistakes for a hallucination of her deceased mother and later sees his ghostly figure having mirrors for eyes. The pair begin to hallucinate and experience visions of everyone killed by the mirror, who all appear as ghostly figures with mirrors in place of their eyes.

Finally younger Kaylie is drawn to the mirror by an image of her mother beckoning to her, at the same time current day Tim has a hallucination of being alone in the room with the mirror. He activates the kill switch, causing the anchor to descend and fatally impale older Kaylie. The police arrive and arrest a hysterical Tim, just as they had arrested him when he was younger. Both current and younger Tim insist that “the mirror did it.” The Tims are taken away in the back of a squad car as younger Tim witnesses the ghosts of his parents watching him from the house. Current Tim witnesses the ghost of Kaylie watching in addition to his parents. As the police car carrying younger Tim drives away, younger Kaylie is seen outside the house looking upon the car and then dropping her head as if in defeat.


It seems as if the horror/suspense genre has been struggling to release something worthy of note lately. Seriously, what was the last flick in this genre that you can remember being released in the last few years? I can’t think of any that were good that are worth mentioning. Hopefully, Oculus will change all of this.

What is this about?

Now young adults, sibs Tim and Kaylie are still trying to recover from — and get to the bottom of — their parents’ deaths more than a decade ago.

What did I like?

Companion. With her time on Dr. Who over, Karen Gillian is making a strong play to become a name over here in the states. She has the looks and the talent, that is for sure. Before that show that was just cancelled on ABC, she starred in this and Guardians of the Galaxy. Is she on the level of someone like say, Meryl Streep? No, not yet, but this is her first US film, as far as I know, and is much better than some of today’s “stars”.  Performances such as this where she shows depth of character are sure to keep her working for a long time.

Back and forth. Most of the time I am not a fan when flashbacks are such an integral part of the film’s plot, unless they set up the story. In the case of this film, that is what initially the idea was, but as the film goes on, we see that we are basically watching two different timelines, which is an interesting way to tell a narrative.

Creepy. Not being a horror fan (or a scaredy cat), I don’t usually get creeped out by films like this or its ilk, but I will say that this whole thing about a mirror that subtly drives you crazy, causes hallucinations, and seems to abduct animals is something that doesn’t exactly make me feel safe, that’s for sure. Throw in the mirror eyes ghosts and some very effective visuals this film did and if I were a lesser man, I may have been in danger of nightmares tonight!

What didn’t I like?

Sack. Much in the same way that Karen Gillian is making her way to bigger and better things after being on (British) TV for so many years, Katee Sackhoff is also making her jump to theaters. We last saw her in Riddick, playing the typical hard-ass chick that she made so famous when she was on Battlestar Galactica. This role is a bit different for her, as she is playing a caring mother, not exactly the kind of character we know her for. On top of that, she’s actually wearing a dress in a scene or two. Nothing wrong with that, but there are a couple of issues. First, it is like in school when you see someone who normally wears jeans, sweatpants, shorts, etc., all of a sudden get all dressed up. You don’t know what to say! Second, the dress they put her in is very frumpy. It was like they wanted to sent her back and make her a schoolmarm. Poor Katee!

Decrescendo. Aside from the exciting conclusion, this film starts off with a bit of a bang and then quickly drops down to a wimper. For this genre, I’m not surprised, but it does take one out of the festivities, if you will. Taking too long to build things back up almost had me dozing off.

Malevolence. Usually, whenever a malevolent force terrorizes people, we get to know a bit of history about the object and how it became imbued with evil. We get a little bit of history about the mirror, or at least some of the other cases in past and what the name of it was, forgive me for forgetting. Nothing is really told to us about the mirror’s history. While that isn’t a game breaker for this film, I can’t help but feel that we needed a bit of a backstory. Perhaps they were saving that for the possible sequel?

Oculus only piqued my interest because if had Katee Sackhoff and Karen Gillian, I won’t lie to you. However, as I sit her reflecting on what I just saw, I am glad that I took the time to watch it and embrace the other characters. This film has a great story that really develops, albeit slowly, and comes to a thrilling conclusion. Do I recommend this flick? Yes, definitely something to check out, especially on a dark and stormy night.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars


Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on December 4, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

James Hunt and Niki Lauda are two highly skilled race car drivers who first develop a fierce rivalry in 1970 at a Formula Three race at the Crystal Palace circuit in England, when both their cars spin out and Hunt eventually wins the race. Hunt is a brash, young Englishman with a tendency to vomit before every race, while Lauda is a cool, calculating Austrian technical genius who relies on precision. After a falling out with his father, Lauda takes a large bank loan and buys his way into the BRM Formula One team, meeting teammate Clay Regazzoni for the first time. Meanwhile, Hesketh Racing, the fledgling racing team Hunt drives for, enters Formula One as well. Lauda then joins Scuderia Ferrari with Regazzoni and wins his first championship in 1975. Hesketh closes shop after failing to secure a sponsor, but Hunt manages to land a driving position in McLaren after Emerson Fittipaldi leaves the team. During this time, Hunt marries supermodel Suzy Miller, while Lauda develops a relationship with German socialite Marlene Knaus.

The 1976 Formula One season starts with Lauda dominating the first two races while Hunt struggles to catch up. Hunt wins the Spanish Grand Prix, but is disqualified after a post-race inspection rules that his car is too wide. Struggling to comply with F1 rules, McLaren suffers a series of setbacks on the next few races, and Hunt’s situation is further exacerbated when Suzy is discovered to have a relationship with Richard Burton. Following his divorce, he regains his competitive spirit and his disqualification in Spain is overturned, which reinstates the points he lost and puts him back into championship contention. Meanwhile, Lauda marries Marlene in a private ceremony but begins to have concerns about the effects of his marriage on his racing career.

At the German Grand Prix, Lauda urges the F1 committee to cancel the race due to heavy rain on the already notoriously dangerous Nürburgring. At the drivers’ meeting, Hunt argues that Lauda would benefit by having one fewer race in the season. The drivers vote to go ahead with the race. Both Hunt and Lauda start the race with wet weather tyres, which becomes a costly tactic due to most of the track quickly drying up. They both pit to change tyres during the second lap, but halfway through the third lap, a suspension arm in Lauda’s Ferrari breaks, sending the car flying into an embankment before it bursts into flames and is further hit by other cars on the track. After being pulled out of the flaming wreckage, he is airlifted to the hospital with third-degree burns to his head and face and dangerous internal burns to his lungs. For the next six weeks, Lauda is treated for his injuries while he watches his rival dominate the races in his absence. Against his doctor’s orders, he returns behind the wheel of his Ferrari at the Italian Grand Prix to finish fourth while Hunt fails to finish the race.

The 1976 season comes to a climax at the rain-soaked Japanese Grand Prix. Hunt’s late rally in Lauda’s absence has pulled him within three points of Lauda. At the end of the second lap, Lauda returns to the pits and retires from the race, opting to stay with Marlene instead of risking his life again on the track. This opens the door for Hunt to win the championship if he can notch a podium finish (third or better). After facing stiff competition under grueling conditions and overcoming tyre problems and injuring his hand due to the gear shifter knob breaking, Hunt finishes third, giving him enough points to win the championship by one point over Lauda. He spends the rest of the year with fame, sex, and drugs, while Lauda takes an interest in flying private planes. At a private airfield in Bologna, Lauda suggests to Hunt that he focus on the next racing season, but later on realizes that Hunt no longer has anything to prove. Hunt continues to race until his retirement in 1979, and becomes a motorsport broadcast commentator until his death in 1993 at the age of 45.


My little brother was a big racing fan when he was little. I think he was more into NASCAR, but racing was racing. At least it was until he saw Dale Earnhardt’s crash live on TV. I think it left some scars. At any rate, I’ve never been a racing fan. There just is nothing appealing to me about driving breakneck speed and turning left for some 60+ laps. So, why watch Rush? A mixture of good word of mouth and being overruled by the lady of the house.

What is this about?

This dramatic portrayal of the intense 1970s rivalry between race drivers Niki Lauda and James Hunt captures the contrasts between the two champions. While Hunt was a charming and handsome ladies’ man, Lauda was a loner with a single goal: victory.

What did I like?

Contrasting rivalry. Usually rivals tend to be either carbon copies of each other or total opposites. For example, take Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy. Harry is somewhat quiet, reserved, dark-haired, and poor. On the other side, Malfoy is loud, obnoxious, blonde, and rich. Of course they’re going to butt heads, right? Somehow this trope played out in real life as Nikki Lauda and James Hunt couldn’t have been more different. The only thing they happened to have in common was a love for racing. The contrast in their personalities was played up in this film and made for an interesting dynamic.

Races. When I watched Cars and Speed Racer for the first time, I seem to remember saying something along the lines of “if car racing was like this, then I’d actually watch.” In that same vein, after watching the races in this flick, I’d be willing to check out an event or two, if they were this exciting. Even though I’ve never watched a Formula 1 race in my life, I know they are not like this. Maybe the quick camera cuts and the built up tension and whatnot would make them more interesting, though.

Thor no more. Who is Chris Hemsworth? Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last 3 or 4 years, then you have to know that this is the guy who did the impossible by bringing Thor to life on the big screen. Some thought he would be typecast as the big, blonde hunk type character for the rest of his career. Well, going strictly on an eye test, it looks as if Hemsworth shed a good chunk of that Thor muscle for this role (actually, he has to bulk up to play Thor, he isn’t normally that buff…sorry ladies), but more importantly he shows off some truly stellar acting chops that will carry him to a long career in Hollywood if chooses the right roles after this days in the Marvel Cinematic Universe are over.

What didn’t I like?

Wilde and out. Make no mistake, this film is all about the rivalry between Nikki Lauda an James Hunt, so any female distractions aren’t going to take center stage. With that in mind, one has to wonder why you waste Olivia Wilde as Hunt’s wife. She gets a little bit of screen time but not enough to justify her being in this role, as opposed to some lower profile actress. Maybe her reason for taking this role was that she just looked that part or wanted to have a part in a Ron Howard picture.

Lauda. Sometimes foreigners can come off as annoying but that is just a result of their culture clashing with ours. With this characterization of Nikki Lauda, that isn’t the case. He’s just an, as he put it, “arsehole.” Not only does he think he knows everything, he goes on to impart his knowledge to everyone, whether they want it or not. After losing a race, he complains about Hunt’s care being 5/8 of an inch over regulations. There is also the little matter of him being rich and buying his way into Formula One. Whether it is this actor’s portrayal of the man or the way he was written, I wanted to do nothing more than punch him in the face, even after his near fatal accident.

Andretti. In a few of the races, a name that is known to the sports world, especially those involved in racing, is mentioned, Mario Andretti. As far as I can tell, that is the only part he had in this film, and I think that was just so that we can have an idea of who else was racing at this point in time, besides Hunt and Lauda, that would go on to big things. I appreciate the effort, but if they were going to go through all that trouble, then they should have cast somebody as Andretti, if even for a very small appearance.

Some people felt Rush deserved more critical acclaim that it received, particularly from the Academy. While this is a good film, and I think it could have been a contender had it been released at the right time, I’m not so sure that it is Oscar-worthy. This is just one of those real good dramas that impresses its audience and leaves it at that. Sure, it could be better, but there are so many spots in here where a lesser director would have made this worse. Just imagine if this would have been a Michael Bay picture. There’s be nothing but explosions and scantily clad young girls…and the military, can’t forget Bay’s hard-on for the military. None of that would have fit in to the history. As it is, this film apparently sticks pretty close what actually happens and that, if nothing else, is worth giving this a shot. Yes, I do recommend this, so give it a go!

4 1/4 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 12/4

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on December 4, 2014 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!!!

This is one of those weeks when I am at a loss for what to dig up. Luckily, a friend and I were talking about the fact that I have not reviewed any of the Indiana Jones films in all the years I’ve had this little site. I recently purchased the box set, so they’re coming.

I don’t believe this trailer needs any introduction, so just sit back, watch, and enjoy the trailer for Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark!



Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on December 3, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Dutch Dooley (Ed O’Neill) attends a ritzy party with his girlfriend, Natalie Standish (JoBeth Williams). He stands out terribly among the upper-class aristocrats – wearing a cheap suit and telling boorish anecdotes. Natalie’s relaxed, less rigid personality also does not fit with the rest of the patrons. Dutch also meets Natalie’s snobbish, wealthy ex-husband Reed (Christopher McDonald), who tells Natalie that he will have to break his Thanksgiving plans with their son Doyle (Ethan Embry) for an unexpected business trip to London. He also threatens to strip Natalie’s custody of Doyle if she gives Reed a hard time. Dutch overhears the conversation and threatens Reed with bodily harm should he hurt Natalie.

Natalie calls Doyle at his private school in Georgia and invites him home for Thanksgiving, but Doyle rudely refuses the offer and expresses his disdain for his mother, solely blaming her for the divorce. Despite this, Dutch sees an opportunity to get to know Doyle and further his relationship with Natalie, so he offers to go to Georgia and bring Doyle back to Chicago for the holidays.

Upon arriving in Georgia, Dutch finds Doyle to be much like his father: snobbish, selfish and elitist. He welcomes Dutch by throwing a book at his face and shooting him in the groin with a BB gun, to which Dutch promises revenge. Dutch ultimately hogties Doyle to a hockey stick and carries him to the car to start on the drive back home.

The trip entails several mishaps: A fireworks show Dutch gives Doyle in an attempt to make Doyle warm up to him goes awry when one lit rocket lands in the bag and sets off all the fireworks at once. Later, Dutch throws Doyle out of the car and makes him walk to the next motel by himself (Doyle eventually gets even by parking Dutch’s car in the path of an oncoming semi truck, which totals the car and endangers the truck driver). They also hitch a ride with two prostitutes (E.G. Daily and Ari Meyers) who steal their luggage and leave them stranded with no money.

Doyle calls his father, whom he discovers has lied about his trip to London; he instead spent the holidays with a girlfriend. Stunned by his father’s betrayal, and wounded by Dutch’s accusation that he “hates his mother”, Doyle begins to regret his callous attitude. Dutch initially gives up and wants to call Natalie for assistance, but Doyle refuses and insists on getting home on their own. They sneak a ride on the back of a semi truck and are assaulted by security guards at a cargo storage station; Doyle feigns insanity and pretends that voices in his head are telling him to kill the guards, which frightens the guards enough to allow them to escape.

The two enter a restaurant, where they meet a married couple who takes them to a homeless shelter in Hammond, Indiana for the night. At the shelter, Doyle grows fond of a young girl and her family. While getting to know them, he finally realizes that he has been neglecting his mother and indeed wants to be with her for the holidays. The next day, the family drives Dutch and Doyle to Natalie’s home, where Reed is waiting. Doyle shares an emotional embrace with his mother and reveals to Reed that he knows the truth about his trip to London. Doyle decides to stay with his mother instead of going with Reed for Thanksgiving. An angry Reed gives Natalie only a few days to pack and leave the house, which he owns. Dutch follows Reed outside as he departs and makes good on his promise to hurt Reed, putting a dent in his forehead with his pinky ring. He then demands that Reed show more respect to Natalie and become a better father to Doyle, to which a dazed Reed agrees.

The film ends with Natalie, Dutch and Doyle at the dinner table about to begin the Thanksgiving feast. Before they commence, Dutch asks Doyle to retrieve Dutch’s coat, as it contains a very special gift for Natalie. As Doyle turns to walk away, Dutch pulls the BB gun Doyle originally shot him with and finally gets his revenge on Doyle by shooting him in the buttocks


Apologies for my tardiness with watching Dutch. This is a film that is regarded as must-see viewing for Thanksgiving because, as well know, there are few to no actual Thanksgiving films (Free Birds doesn’t count, sorry). Thanks to AMC showing Gone with the Wind last week and my usual tradition of watching The Magnificent Seven every Turkey day, this film slipped my mind, but I said I was going to get to it this week and here we are.

What is this about?

Dutch is a working-class guy who offers to take his girlfriend’s son home from boarding school, not realizing the kid is a snotty brat.

What did I like?

Stay classy. A recurring topic that this kid brings up the entire time they are on the road, especially in the early part of the trip is how Ed O’Neil’s character is a working-class citizen. Last I checked, there was nothing wrong with working class. I’m not sure if this was meant to be some political, socioeconomic statement the film was making, but I appreciated that O’Neil didn’t resort to underhanded tactics to defend his station in life, but rather took pride in what he did. Something we don’t see on film too often. Mostly, working class are portrayed as mindless buffoons…with hot wives!

Go for a ride. Of course a couple of males, in a film, are somehow going to find a way to get a ride from two hot chicks. Big surprise is that they are prostitutes, rob them, and leave them stranded at the gas station. All this is after making an impression on young Ethan Embry’s character, who was, as he put it, “she made me horny.” I guess it was worth it, then, right?

Fireworks. Did you know that in Illinois it was illegal to light fireworks? I didn’t, but I was aware of Tennessee’s stance on fireworks. In a scene that shouldn’t be as memorable as it is, Ed O’Neil’s character buys a bunch of fireworks, drives out in some field and puts on a fireworks show as a way to bond with his possible son-in-law, who has a sever disdain for him at this early point of the film. Did it work? Eh, not really, but it did get a smile out of the kid and we, the audience, were entertained, so there’s that.

What didn’t I like?

Embry-o. Ethan Embry is just one of those actors that I have never gotten behind. It isn’t that the guy is a bad actor. There is just something about him that is very off-putting. This is a very young Embry and his character is just horrible to everyone he encounters, making it extremely hard to like him, which is the point, but even in the parts where we are supposed to feel some compassion I found it hard to muster up any feeling. Why is that? I can’t really tell you. Perhaps it is a great performance by Embry or my personal prejudice against him.

Party all the time. The film starts at this swanky party that just doesn’t seem to jibe with the vibe of the rest of the film, not to mention that the two people we care about being there are so uncomfortable and out of place it is painful to watch. This scene is there to set up the plot, but something tells me that this could have been done in a better setting, or just through a quick mention in passing, because I felt nearly as uncomfortable as they did watching this scene that should have ended up on the cutting room floor.

Looks can be deceiving. Ever walk into a restaurant and feel like everyone is staring at you as if they don’t want you there because you’re not good enough? Imagine if you’d just been through hell and back and just walked in to get cleaned up and some rude waitress makes it a point to inform you repeatedly that you’re not welcome, based solely on appearance. That is what Dutch and Doyle have to endure. Now, this puts me in mind of what it must have been like in the Civil Rights days where African-Americans were forced to sit at separate counters, purchase and eat their meals in the back of the store or in the bathroom. Seriously, are human beings that shallow that they can’t show a little compassion and charity? There is a reason they went in there, which actually wasn’t to get food, but this lady wouldn’t even let them go to the restroom. Did I mention Doyle’s head was bleeding? Ugh! It is just so frustrating!

I am actually a little disappointed with Dutch. For all the talk I have heard about this being a great Thanksgiving film, there isn’t much Thanksgiving about it. This is more of a road trip film, much like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, that just happens to take place at Thanksgiving. That being said, I enjoyed it for the most part. Will this become a holiday tradition in my house? Probably not, but I wouldn’t be opposed to watching it again at some point. I say give it a shot someday.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Strange Frame

Posted in Animation, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 2, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Set at the end of the 28th century, the human race has long since abandoned a desolate earth, colonizing Jupiter’s moons, particularly Ganymede. Most of the refugees fleeing earth did so in exchange for an agreement of indentured servitude, projected to last “at most” one or two generations. However, this proved untrue, and by the 28th century a large portion of the population are in permanent debt bondage from birth. Naia (Tara Strong) is one such debt slave, genetically modified to have enhanced lung capacity in order to survive harsher work environments.

During a protest riot, Naia is freed with many other debt slaves from a holding cell on Ganymede. As she flees she encounters Parker (Claudia Black), a street saxophone performer being set upon by city police who incorrectly believe she is part of the riots. Naia saves Parker from a beating, with Parker later returning the favor. The two ultimately escape and quickly find themselves becoming attracted to each other, and soon after are in a romantic relationship and are living together.

Both musicians, Naia and Parker begin composing music together, Parker’s saxophone complimenting Naia’s guitar and singing. They two join with friends Chat (Alan Tudyk) and Atem (Khary Payton) and form a band, quickly rising in popularity and notoriety owing to Naia’s passionate, anti-debt slavery lyrics. This soon attracts the attention of Ganymede “starmaker” Dorlan Mig (Tim Curry), who invites Parker and Naia to a party at a high-class club where he can discuss signing the band to his company. At the party both Naia and Parker indulge in several exotic treats, culminating in a rare vintage alcohol which renders both of them unconscious.

Parker awakes in an alley in Ganymede’s slums and soon discovers that Naia and the rest of the band have been signed without her. She tries to make contact with Naia several times, only to be dissuaded (often violently) by the rising star’s bouncers, who inform her that Naia doesn’t want to see her anymore. Heartbroken, Parker spends weeks lurking near Naia’s studio. She soon finds herself needing to leave the area after district police label her a troublemaker. She finds a sympathetic ear in Captain Philo D Grenman (Ron Glass), a hoverchair-bound double amputee who buys her breakfast one morning. After hearing her story, Philo offers Parker a home on his non-operational spaceship; Parker accepts, and soon settles in with Philo and his first officer Reesa (Cree Summer), the only other person on the ship.

Weeks pass, Parker tracking Naia’s progress via news feeds. After seeing reports of a number of troubling incidents – Atem dying in a mysterious shuttle crash, Chat leaving the band due to a previously unknown drug addiction, and another talent signed to Dorlan’s company dying just as her popularity peaked – Parker realizes that Dorlan is going to have Naia killed in order to maximize the popularity of her music. She strikes a deal with Philo and Reesa: if she buys them the last part needed to make the ship operational, using money from selling her antique saxophone, Philo and Reesa will help her recover Naia before she can be killed. Parker makes her way to a massive Naia concert, but after listening to her unemotional performance she realizes that the Naia on stage is actually an android duplicate, meaning the real Naia is being held somewhere else. She, Philo, and Reesa update their plans.

Parker infiltrates the fake Naia’s luxury apartment, with friends of hers providing a distraction. She confronts the fake Naia, incapacitates her, then grabs her. When security forces arrive Parker flees down the side of the building on Philo’s loaned hoverchair, accidentally dropping the Naia android in the process. Though damaged, Parker recovers it and is soon picked up by Philo, who has stolen Dorlan’s car. Philo flees from the police while Parker searches the android’s databanks for Naia’s location, eventually finding it. Successfully evading the police, Philo and Parker find the lab where Naia has been held, being used as a template to better enhance the Naia android’s behavior. Naia is near death but alive; Parker rescues her, leaving the android in her place and setting the lab on fire.

Naia is placed in a medical treatment device on Philo’s ship, Parker unsure if she will survive. The destroyed lab is investigated; finding remains which seem to match Naia, the authorities declare Naia dead. Dorlan is soon arrested for his presumed involvement in the lab and Naia’s death, especially since his car was found just outside. After some time, Naia finally awakes on the ship, greeting Parker lovingly.


Strange Frame is…strange! I won’t lie to you, this film has me scratching my head as to what to think, but allow me to spend a few minutes writing and we’ll see if I can actually formulate an opinion. Right now, though, this flick has me confused as to what I just watched.

What is this about?

Two female musicians fall in love and form a band as they fight for freedom in a world of space pirates, indentured slaves and genetic mutations.

What did I like?

Music. Music soothes the savage beast, or so they say. No, I’m not a savage beast, I just wanted to use that quote. Anyway, this is a film the utilizes saxophone, which is not something we see very often, especially when dealing with rock groups. Also, one of the leads is a singer, so there is that, too. Being a musician, I appreciate the use of music more than the average person, but everyone will enjoy the tunes.

Cast. Most of this cast is well known to sci-fi geeks, as well as those of us that are well-versed in who plays who in cartoons today. Alan Tudyk, Tara Strong, Ron Glass, Tim Curry, Claudia Black, among others lend their voices to these characters that seem to work perfectly for each of them.

Love. What makes this film so important, if anything? Well, it apparently is the first animated film to feature a lesbian relationship as the primary love story. More importantly, they treat it just like a normal relationship. You won’t find any protestors or constant mention of their lesbianism. Kudos to the filmmakers for making things normal. Now, if only every one else would take the hint.

What didn’t I like?

Seen it before? So, here we are with a story of a girl who has a talent that the evil music company wants to exploit. Haven’t we seen this, or at least something similar before? Not only that, I don’t think this flick benefits from this plot line, as it totally deflects from everything we learned in the opening narration and goes off in another direction.

Animation. There wasn’t a big budget on the film, so I really should refrain from saying something negative about the cheap CG they decided to use. However, technology has come far enough now that they should have at least been able to use something a little more “slick.” This style they’ve used is more reminiscent of the motion comics that Marvel animation has used in works such as Marvel Knights: Black Panther. I wasn’t a fan of it then and, even though it isn’t quite the same thing here, I’m not a fan now.

Story. Sakes alive! The beginning of this film and the end do not add up. The opening narration sets up what is a dystopian sci-fi flick similar to Blade Runner, but that monologue is all for naught as we never really get into any of the things that were discussed. This leads me to question why there was even an intro detailing the backstory in the first place!

So, what did I ultimately think of Strange Frame? Well, I still think it was strange. Also, I feel as if this was something that could have very easily been a short in Heavy Metal, but was instead held off until the “right time”. There isn’t enough here, though, to keep the audience’s interest. A valiant effort, but it needs a little more polish to be good, let alone great. I do not recommend it.

2 out of 5 stars


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