Trailer Thursday 10/30

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags , , , on October 30, 2014 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!!!

With tomorrow being Halloween, I want to wish everyone a safe holiday (save me some candy!!!).

Now to conclude this month of horror trailers with a quartet of trailers for films that have become staples in the community.

First up, the original Friday the 13th.

How can we have a Halloween without the trailer for the original Halloween?

My personal favorite slasher icon is Freddy Krueger, who was introduced to us in A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Finally, let’s step away from the killers and back to the roots of horror with the silent vampire film, Nosferatu

Octopussy

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

British agent 009 is found dead at the British embassy in East Berlin, dressed as a circus clown and carrying a fake Fabergé egg. MI6 immediately suspects Soviet involvement and, after seeing the real egg appear at an auction in London, sends James Bond—agent 007—to investigate and find out who the seller is. At the auction Bond is able to swap the real egg with the fake and engages in a bidding war with exiled Afghan prince Kamal Khan, forcing Khan to pay £500,000 for the fake egg. Bond follows Khan back to his palace in Rajasthan, India, where Bond defeats Khan in a game of backgammon. Bond escapes with his Indian colleague Vijay, evading Khan’s bodyguard Gobinda’s attempts to kill them both. Bond is seduced by one of Khan’s associates, Magda, and notices that she has a blue-ringed octopus tattoo. Magda steals the real Fabergé egg fitted with a listening device by Q, while Gobinda captures Bond and takes him to Khan’s palace. After Bond escapes from his cell he listens in on the bug in the Fabergé egg and discovers that Khan is working with Orlov, a Soviet general, who is seeking to expand Soviet control into Central Europe.

After escaping from the palace, Bond infiltrates a floating palace in Udaipur, India, and there finds its owner, Octopussy, a wealthy woman who leads the Octopus cult, of which Magda is a member. In Octopussy’s palace Bond finds out that Orlov has been supplying Khan with priceless Soviet treasures, replacing them with replicas while Khan has been smuggling the real versions into the West via Octopussy’s circus troupe. Orlov is planning to meet Khan at Karl-Marx-Stadt (Chemnitz) in East Germany, where the circus is scheduled to perform. After evading Khan’s assassins, who kill Vijay, Bond goes to East Germany.

Bond infiltrates the circus and finds that Orlov replaced the Soviet treasures with a nuclear warhead, primed to explode during the circus show at a US Air Force base in West Germany. The explosion would trigger Europe into seeking disarmament in the belief that the bomb was a US one that detonated by accident, leaving its borders open to Soviet invasion. Bond takes Orlov’s car, drives it along the train tracks and boards the moving circus train. Orlov is shot dead by GDR guards while trying to cross the border. Bond kills the twin knife-throwers Mischka and Grischka in revenge for 009’s death, and, after falling from the train, commandeers a car in order to get to the Air Force base. At the base Bond disguises himself as a clown to evade the West German police. He attempts to convince Octopussy that Khan has betrayed her by showing her one of the treasures found in Orlov’s car, which she was to smuggle for him. Octopussy realises that she has been tricked and assists Bond in deactivating the warhead.

Bond and Octopussy return to India and launch an assault on Khan’s palace. Khan and Gobinda flee the palace, capturing Octopussy in the process. Bond follows them as they attempt to escape in an aeroplane, clinging to the fuselage and disabling one of its engines. Gobinda dies after falling off the roof of the plane and Bond rescues Octopussy from Khan, the pair jumping onto a nearby cliff moments before the plane crashes into a mountain, killing Khan. While M and General Gogol discuss the return of the jewellery, Bond recuperates with Octopussy aboard her private boat in India.

REVIEW:

So, here I am returning to the Bond franchise with Octopussy. Isn’t that just a dirty sounding title? Arthur Fleming must have been a dirty old man, I tell you. Aside from coming up with characters like Pussy Galore and Octopussy, he makes his lead character, as one of my friends put it, “a cooz hound.” Still, I don’t think there are many men on this planet that wouldn’t trade places with James Bond in a heartbeat, let alone the scores of women who would line up to be a Bond girl (some have preferences to which Bond, though).

What is this about?

Agent 007 springs into action after uncovering a terrorist plot hatched by a renegade Soviet general and an exiled Afghan prince to launch a nuclear attack — financed by the sale of Fabergé eggs — against NATO forces in Europe.

What did I like?

Eggs. When I was growing up and would be dragged halfway across the country to visit my grandmother every summer, one of the things I remembered were these fancy eggs she had in her bedroom. As it turned out, they were Faberge eggs. Imagine how tickled I was to see the same things pop up in this film, albeit a much fancier and expensive version…not to mention not pink (long story, but my grandmother’s house was Pepto Bismol pink inside and out…ugh!)

Secret Agent Man. The last few Bond films I’ve seen, well all of them really excluding Dr. No, haven’t exactly showcased Bond’s spy ability. This is the first one that I can recall that we see him don disguises, sneak into offices, seduce the girls, escape nefarious captors, etc. Sure, he does a combination of these in all of the films, but for some reason, at least to me, it was more prominent with this film. Whatever we think of James Bond, he is a spy, first and foremost.

Humor. In the research I did before I hit play on this film this afternoon, I read that critics denounced it for not having humor. Now, as I have been making my way through this franchise, I have learned that humor is not the major selling point for 007. Leave that for Austin Powers or some parody. However, there is a place for it. When these films start to get too serious, they drag on and get rather boring. The powers that be behind this film knew that and threw in a few moments of levity, such as 007 give the Tarzan yell when he’s swinging through the jungle, the adolescent behavior he showed when talking to Q, or some light jokes here and there that just break up the monotony. Can you imagine life without someone funny in your life? Neither can Bond, I would imagine.

What didn’t I like?

Cold consequences. In comics, when Batman, Iron Man, Daredevil, Green Lantern, or whoever puts away the villain, they tend to break out after some time, but that’s life in comic books. These Bond films are meant to be more real life, so how is it that the Soviets can basically attempt to frame the US for trying to blow up the world (I am exaggerating with this plot, btw), and don’t even get a slap on the wrist? Something is quite unsettling about that to me. Maybe I am just not up to speed on my history and there was some kind of alliance between the UK and the USSR, or this is a plot device for a future film?

Theme. Aside from the grand compositions of composers like John Williams, James Horner, and the like, as well as the great songs that have come from Disney movies, the most popular film music tends to be the themes songs to 007 films. I mean, here we are about 2 or 3 years removed from the latest entry, Skyfall, and people are still humming it and requesting it on the radio. With that reputation to live up to, I have to say that this film didn’t deliver. The theme song is ok and passable, but I couldn’t tell you who sings it or hums it and I haven’t been long hit stop. Hopefully the next Bond film won’t have that issue.

KHAN! Another disappointment for me was the film’s main villain, a man named Kamal Khan. Louis Jourdan’s performance is actually solid, for what they gave him to do, but this film isn’t named Khan. Octopussy should have been the villain, if you ask me, or Khan’s chief bodyguard, whose name escapes me at this moment. That guy seemed to do more damage and serve as more of a threat to Bond than Khan, who was basically just another rich guy in a suit with delusions of grandeur. Typical for a Bond villain, but not threatening enough, as many of his predecessors have been.

I was telling one of my buds from college who is a Bond buff, that Octopussy will go down as one of my favorite in the franchise so far. He laughed it off and is currently telling my why it shouldn’t be, but whatever! Everyone has their own opinion, right? For me, this was quite the enjoyable ride, a return of sorts for 007 to his action/adventure roots and not relying so much on the gadgets and gizmos, though a few more of those would have been nice. Do I recommend this? Yes, I doubt that anyone will just hate this film, so give it a shot!

4 out of 5 stars

Thelma & Louise

Posted in Chick Flicks, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Two friends, Thelma Dickinson (Geena Davis) and Louise Sawyer (Susan Sarandon) set out for a two-day vacation to take a break from their dreary lives. Thelma is married to a controlling man, Darryl (Christopher McDonald), while Louise works as a waitress in a diner. They head out in Louise’s 1966 Ford Thunderbird convertible, but their vacation in the mountains quickly turns into a nightmare before they reach their destination.

They stop for a drink at a roadhouse, where Thelma meets and dances with Harlan Puckett (Timothy Carhart). After she gets drunk, Harlan attempts to rape her in the parking lot. Louise finds them and threatens to shoot Harlan with a gun that Thelma brought with her. Harlan stops, but as the women walk away, he yells profanity and insults them. Louise loses her temper and fires, killing him. Thelma wants to go to the police, but Louise says that because Thelma was drunk and had been dancing with Harlan, no one will believe her claim of attempted rape. Afraid that she will be prosecuted, Louise decides to go on the run and Thelma accompanies her.

Louise is determined to travel from Oklahoma to Mexico, but refuses to go through Texas. It is revealed that something happened to her in Texas years earlier, but she refuses to say exactly what. Heading west, they come across an attractive young man named J.D. (Brad Pitt), and Thelma convinces Louise to let him hitch a ride with them. Louise contacts her boyfriend Jimmy Lennox (Michael Madsen) and asks him to wire transfer her life savings to her. When she goes to pick up the money, she finds that Jimmy has come to see her. Thelma invites J.D. into her room and learns he is a thief who has broken parole. They sleep together, and J.D. describes how he conducted his hold-ups. At the same time, Jimmy asks Louise to marry him, but she declines.

In the morning, Thelma tells Louise about her night with J.D. When they return to the motel room, they discover J.D. has taken Louise’s life savings and fled. Louise is distraught and frozen with indecision, so a guilty Thelma takes charge and robs a convenience store using the tactics she learned from listening to J.D. Meanwhile, the FBI are getting closer to catching the fugitives, after questioning J.D. and Jimmy, and tapping the phone line at Darryl’s house. Detective Hal Slocumb (Harvey Keitel) discovers the traumatic event that Louise experienced years earlier in Texas. During a couple of brief phone conversations with her, he expresses sympathy for her predicament and pledges to protect her, but he is unsuccessful in his attempts to persuade her to surrender.

When they are pulled over by a state trooper (Jason Beghe), Thelma holds him at gunpoint and locks him in the trunk of his car, while Louise takes his gun and ammunition. They then encounter a truck driver (Marco St. John) who repeatedly makes obscene gestures at them. They pull over to demand an apology, but when he refuses, they fire at the fuel-tanker he is driving, causing it to explode. Leaving the man furious, they drive off.

Thelma and Louise are finally cornered by the authorities only 100 yards from the edge of the Grand Canyon. Hal arrives on the scene, but he is refused the chance to make one last attempt to talk the women into surrendering themselves. Rather than be captured and spend the rest of their lives in jail, Thelma proposes that they “keep going” (over the cliff). Louise asks Thelma if she is certain. Thelma says yes, they kiss, and Louise steps on the accelerator. As soon as the car starts forward, Hal sprints after it in an attempt to save them, but the car zooms over the cliff.

REVIEW:

The other day I was having a discussion about the direction films seem to be taking these days One of the topics that was brought up involved more and more use of strong female protagonists and less and less of the “damsel in distress”. Say what you will about me, but I prefer the “damsel in distress”. Thelma & Louise is unique in that it utilizes both female tropes.

What is this about?

An Arkansas waitress and her naïve housewife friend hit the road for a simple weekend of freedom — and end up on a wild flight from the law.

What did I like?

Fire and Ice. Thelma is the free spirit who has been held down too long by her over controlling husband. Louise is the no-nonsense waitress who it can be assumed has had some rough experiences in her past. The contrast between these two ladies is one of the major contributing factors to why this film is so popular. The chemistry between these two women, though, is remarkable. I don’t want to sound like it is as if they would have no chemistry, but rather the pairing of Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis was a nice bet that paid off.

Introducing… Brad Pitt has been called one of the finest actors of our generation. I can’t really argue that, to be truthful. He has shown that he does have some acting chops to go with that pretty boy look of his. I’m always fascinated to see the early works of actors, singers, etc., especially their debuts. For instance, I still crack up laughing when I see the WWF debut of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, then known as Rocky Maivia (look it up on Youtube and see if you don’t laugh, as well). This isn’t the first thing Pitt had done, but it is his feature film debut.

Exit. In the film’s climactic final scene, the girls are faced with the choice of turning themselves in or getting shot up like Bonnie & Clyde (more on that shortly). If you know anything about this flick, then you are more than aware that they hightail it for the Grand Canyon, rather than head to jail. It is an exit befitting the greatest of fugitives. Bonnie & Clyde were shot up holding hands. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, contrary to the movie’s portrayal, went out with each other…one even assisting the other in death. Thelma & Louise go out together as well (though there are theories as to whether or not they actually die).

What didn’t I like?

Shoot ‘em up. In yet another case of the cops and FBI going overboard, they send out what is just short of a military strike force to capture these two women, who haven’t really done anything other than rob one convenience store and kill one asshole rapist. With the force they sent after them, you’d think they’d have kidnapped the First Lady! On top of that, when they get to the climactic scene, these cops and other personnel are aimed and ready to shoot. Again, these women have committed a couple of crimes, but they aren’t nearly dangerous enough to have adopted a “shoot first, ask questions later” attitude. WTF?!?

Rape. Rape is a tough subject to tackle, but there is a scene where Geena Davis’ character is about to get raped by this guy at the bar. I won’t lie, I’ve had all kinds of impure thought of Geena Davis, but I would never act on them….unless she wanted me to HA! Seriously, though, this rape scene was a bit uncomfortable to watch, and it wasn’t even as bad as some others that I’ve seen in film and TV. Plus, it was a major plot device, so there was no way to omit it, really. Personally, though, I could have done without this scene.

Smooth it out. Anyone that has been on the back roads in this country knows that they are far from smooth sailing, let alone as straight as this film makes them, unless that is how they are over there in New Mexico, which I doubt. Perhaps this is just me being a little too over critical, but there should have been more bumps in the road as they were traveling. At the same time, there are very many 1966 Thunderbirds with Arkansas license plates driving about, either. How is it no police officer didn’t notice them?!?

Thelma & Louise is a film that I’ve been putting off watching for years and years now. With a couple of hours carved out of my schedule this week, I managed to have the time to check it out and I must say that it was worth the wait. The few complaints I have with this film are very minor. Here we are in 2014 and I think this film is still relevant, if not moreso. Do I recommend it? Yes, very much so! This entertaining film will definitely go down as one of the finest pieces of cinema you’ll watch in your lifetime, or at least this year!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 10/23

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on October 23, 2014 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!!!

Zombies are everywhere these days thanks to the popularity of The Walking Dead and the Twilight franchise ruining vampires and werewolves for everyone.

Back in the 60s, though, zombies weren’t an everyday thing…then the trailer for Night of the Living Dead came out and the world was never the same!

For those that want something a bit more modern, here is the 1990 remake

The Nut Job

Posted in Animation, Comedy, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 22, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In the fictional city of Oakton City in 1959, a selfish purple squirrel named Surly (Will Arnett) and his rat partner Buddy who does not talk much reside in Liberty Park and their thieving reputation has made them outcasts. A group of urban animals led by Raccoon (Liam Neeson) and his Cardinal assistant (who mostly chirps) store food for winter in a giant tree in the park called Liberty Park. Raccoon is informed by his servant Mole (Jeff Dunham) that there is a food shortage in the park. Surly and Buddy’s attempt to rob a peanut cart goes haywire when it is impeded by Raccoon’s helpers, a compassionate red squirrel named Andie (Katherine Heigl) and the “park hero”, a gray squirrel named Grayson (Brendan Fraser) whose heroic antics prove to be incompetent. The selfish Surly ignores Andie’s help and tries to get a bag of nuts while the owner Lucky and his associate Fingers gets distracted by a bratty girl scout customer and a police officer that the girl issues her complaint to. The heist also gets invaded by Lucky’s pet pug named Precious (Maya Rudolph). After fending her off by having her bite the pipe of a propane tank, Surly and Buddy escape with the cart and Andie manages to guide it to Liberty Park. Surly threatens Andie and Grayson with a torch, unwilling to share the food, but accidentally causes it to ricochet across the park. Although the animals (except for Grayson) get off safely, the cart is sent into the tree, where it explodes along with the tree and the animals’ food supply. Grayson however, survives the ordeal. When Surly is identified as the culprit by the Groundhog Bruisers Jimmy (Gabriel Iglesias), Johnny, and Jamie, Raccoon banishes him from Liberty Park following a unanimous vote forcing him to survive in the city.

Buddy attempts to be with Surly who tells him to leave after he unknowingly contributed to his exile. After escaping from wild street rats, they find a nut store called Maury’s Nut Shop and attempt to rob it to feed themselves. After entering the store, they discover that it is a criminal hideout used by Lucky, Fingers, their mob boss Percy “King” Dimplewade (Stephen Lang) who has recently gotten out of jail, his silent partner Knuckles, and his girlfriend Lana (Sarah Gadon). Raccoon sends Andie and Grayson to find food only for them to get separated upon Grayson fighting a street rat. Precious also serves as the guard dog there and King plans to rob the Oaken Bank and replace the cash with nuts. Surly and Buddy see that the only way to get to the nuts and to avoid Precious is with a dog whistle that Lucky has. The two of them are thrown out by Knuckles since he can hear it. While trying to find the whistle, Surly crosses paths with Andie who gets the whistle and threatens to dispose of it if Surly does not share the food he’s going to take. Reluctantly, Surly accepts and unwittingly befriends Precious after threatening her with the whistle. Andie informs the park community of the plan. Although they have a lack of faith in Surly, Raccoon and the rest of the park community agree to go along with it. Andie gets help from Mole and the Bruisers.

When the first attempt to rob the store fails, Surly eventually learns from Andie that Raccoon planned on double crossing him and Surly leaves after an argument even when Grayson catches up to the group. After Surly and Precious catch Mole in the act of sabotage, he confesses that Raccoon is a power-hungry con artist who keeps food from the animals to have his leadership kept and only Mole and Cardinal know about it. Andie and the others are unconvinced at Raccoon’s plot as King begins his heist. After fending off the street rats that worked for Raccoon, the two squirrels ends up chasing after King’s truck that Raccoon and the other animals are on while Grayson fights off Cardinal who is sent flying into the window of a building where the Oakton City Cat Show is being held. While in the truck, Mole defects from Raccoon and reveals this info to the animals with Surly resulting in Raccoon being voted out of the park community at Grayson’s suggestion. King and Knuckles uses the dynamite inside the empty truck to blow the police out, but it hangs and falls over the bridge where it explodes, after Surly gets himself and Andie off it before they fall into the river. Surly makes it to a log, but finds Raccoon, King and Knuckles surviving the explosion. Raccoon tries to kill Surly, but the nuts weight begins to break the log. The animals arrive to rescue them, but Surly, decides to be selfless in order to protect his friends, lets go of the log and falls down into the waterfall with Raccoon apparently. The park community, now seeing the good side of Surly, mourn him in honor of the most selfless act he committed in years.

The food makes its way into the Liberty Park, where the animals gather around in joy as their food troubles are over. King and his associates are arrested as Lana appears to end her relationship with King. Andie and Buddy are still mourning over Surly and when Precious finds out what happened to her friend, she eventually finds Surly’s apparent dead body near the river. She has Buddy come and look at it. Doleful to see his best friend gone, Buddy says his first two words “best friend”. Surly reveals that he was actually unconscious and hugs Buddy and Precious licks Surly’s face (which she wanted to do since she got involved in Surly’s heist) and leaves to meet up with Lana who plans to run Maury’s Nut Shop in Lucky’s place. Finding that Surly is alright, Andie embraces him and tries to get him to come to the other animals so he can tell of his heroism. But Surly, feeling as though it was the other animals that were the true heroes, refuses yet gains a willingness to work with others. He goes into the city with Buddy allowing Grayson to take credit for the food making it to the park.

During the credits, the animals and humans dance with an animated PSY as he performs “Gangnam Style.” In a mid-credits scene, Raccoon and Cardinal are shown to have survived their ordeal and are sulking on a harbor buoy surrounded by sharks while trying to come up with another plan. In the post-credits, Precious chases Mole who is holding a bone that Precious wants. Mole drives Precious away with the dog whistle.

REVIEW:

What is it that is uttered in just about every episode of the first couple of season of Game of Thrones? Ah yes, “Winter is coming!” In a way, that could be the mantra for The Nut Job, as these animals search for food. Simple enough, right? One would think, but how complicated and convoluted did these filmmakers decide to make it?

What is this about?

When his grouchy attitude gets him kicked out of the park, Surly the squirrel hatches a plan to rob Maury’s Nut Shop to stock up for winter.

What did I like?

Detail. It wasn’t that long ago that we were in awe of what computer animation was capable of doing. Just look at Brave for a point of reference. Watching this, you can see a great deal of care and attention that was paid to not only the fur on the animals, but also the fabric on the clothes. In particular, I noticed a scene where the mobsters were wearing janitor uniforms and you could see the fabric pattern. While I am still not a fan of computer animation, I will give credit where credit is due, so kudos to what these animators have done.

Voices. As with most animated films, at least the ones that are major releases, the voice cast is quite impressive. Some names and voices are instantly recognizable, such as Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Liam Neeson, but a few aren’t as instantly recognizable, such as Maya Rudolph, Gabriel Iglesias, Katherine Heigl, etc. None do a bad job, and all fit their characters.

Roll credits. As the credits roll, we are treated to an animated version of the hit song “Gangnam Style”, complete with all the characters dancing and an animated version on Psy singing and dancing along. A common trope that among family films, especially animated ones, and some comedies seems to be the end credits dance scene. While this has gotten a little old, it was a nice touch throwing in this song, which was majorly popular when this was being made.

What didn’t I like?

Time, time, time. This is set in the 1950s, as you can tell because the human ancillary characters resemble their counterparts in The Incredibles. However, the music doesn’t fit, specifically the end credits song. Wouldn’t it have been more fitting to use a song from this era? On youtube, there is a channel that specializes in making current songs retro. Perhaps that would have worked if they insisted on using “Gangnam Style.”

Taken the nuts. There was a time when Liam Neeson was a highly respected dramatic actor. Somewhere along the way, he decided to just take action roles and now this. Now, it is possible he did this for his kids. Sometimes actors will do that so the kids can see something they are in. However, this is not a good role for Neeson. He is above this mediocre material. I also must question what kind of mutant raccoon looks like this? I couldn’t tell if he was a bear, raccoon, badger, or something else!

Stewie syndrome. Talking animals and humans. Who can hear who? This is something I like to refer to as the “Stewie syndrome”, where it is obvious certain individuals can hear, but not everyone, much in the way the family on Family Guy eiter can’t hear or ignore Stewie (excpt for Chris, occasionally). Is this a bad thing? No, but it is something that was a bit unsettling for me, personally, as I would have liked for everyone or no one to hear the animals.

In the end, The Nut Job is a decent enough family flick. As far as I could tell, there is nothing offensive, demeaning, or, unfortunately, funny. I don’t really have much to say about this flick. For the most part, it is just an average family flick that can be popped in just as often as an episode of Sesame Street, SpongeBob Squarepants, or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. So, do I recommend this? Yeah, sure, why not? I just can’t give anyone an enthusiastic recommendation about mediocrity such as this.

3 out of 5 stars

12 Years a Slave

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 19, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1841, Solomon Northup is a free African-American man working as a violinist, who lives with his wife, Anne Hampton, and two children in Saratoga Springs, New York. Two men, Brown and Hamilton, offer him a two-week job as a musician if he will travel to Washington, D.C., with them. Once there, they drug Northup and deliver him to a slave pen owned by James Burch.

Northup is shipped to New Orleans along with others who have been captured. A slave trader named Freeman gives Northup the identity of “Platt”, a runaway slave from Georgia and sells him to plantation owner William Ford. Northup impresses Ford when he engineers a waterway for transporting logs swiftly and cost-effectively across a swamp, and Ford presents him with a violin in gratitude into which he carves the names of his wife and children.

Ford’s carpenter John Tibeats resents Northup and the tensions between them escalate. Tibeats attacks Northup, who defends himself. In retaliation, Tibeats and his friends attempt to lynch Northup, but they are prevented by Ford’s overseer, Chapin, though Northup is left in the noose standing on tiptoe for many hours. Ford finally cuts Northup down, but chooses to sell him to planter Edwin Epps to protect him from Tibeats. Northup attempts to explain that he is actually a free man, but Ford states that he “cannot hear this” and responds “he has a debt to pay” on Northup’s purchase price.

In contrast to the relatively benevolent Ford, Epps is a sadistic man who believes his right to abuse his slaves is biblically sanctioned. The slaves are beaten if they fail to pick at least 200 pounds (91 kg) of cotton every day. A young female slave named Patsey picks over 500 pounds (230 kg) daily, and is praised lavishly by Epps. Epps is attracted to Patsey and repeatedly rapes her, causing Epps’ wife to become jealous and frequently humiliate and degrade Patsey. Patsey’s only comfort is visiting Mistress Shaw, a former slave whose owner fell in love with her and elevated her to Mistress. Patsey wishes to die and begs Northup to kill her but he refuses.

Some time later, an outbreak of cotton worm befalls Epps’ plantation. Unable to work his fields, he leases his slaves to a neighboring plantation for the season. While there, Northup gains the favor of the plantation’s owner, Jurge Turner, who allows him to play the fiddle at a neighbor’s wedding anniversary celebration, and to keep his earnings. When Northup returns to Epps, he attempts to use the money to pay a white field hand and former overseer, Armsby, to mail a letter to Northup’s friends in New York state. Armsby agrees to deliver the letter, and accepts all Northup’s saved money, but betrays him to Epps. Northup is narrowly able to convince Epps that Armsby is lying and avoids punishment. Northup tearfully burns the letter, his only hope of freedom.

Northup begins working on the construction of a gazebo with a Canadian laborer named Bass. Bass is unsettled by the brutal way that Epps treats his slaves and expresses his opposition to slavery, earning Epps’ enmity. One day, Epps becomes enraged after discovering Patsey missing from the plantation. When she returns, she reveals she was gone to get a bar of soap from Mistress Shaw, as a result of being forbidden soap by Mary Epps. Epps does not believe her and orders her flogged. Encouraged by his wife, Epps forces Northup to flog Patsey to avoid doing it himself. Northup reluctantly obeys, but Epps eventually takes the whip away from Northup, savagely lashing Patsey.

Northup purposely destroys his violin, and while continuing to work on the gazebo, Northup confides his kidnapping to Bass. Once again, Northup asks for help in getting a letter to Saratoga Springs. Bass, risking his life, agrees to send it.

One day, Northup is called over by the local sheriff, who arrives in a carriage with another man. The sheriff asks Northup a series of questions to confirm his answers match the facts of his life in New York. Northup recognizes the sheriff’s companion as C. Parker, a shopkeeper he knew in Saratoga. Parker has come to free him, and the two embrace, though an enraged Epps furiously protests the circumstances and tries to prevent him from leaving. Before Northup can board the coach to leave, Patsey cries out to him, and they embrace in a bittersweet farewell. Knowing that they are in potential danger, at the urging of Parker and the sheriff Northup finishes his tearful goodbye with Patsey and immediately leaves the plantation.

After being enslaved for twelve years, Northup is restored to freedom and returned to his family. As he walks into his home, he sees Anne, Alonzo, Margaret and her husband, who present him with his grandson and namesake, Solomon Northup Staunton. Concluding credits recount the inability of Northup and his legal counsel to prosecute Brown, Hamilton and Burch, as well as the publishing of Northup’s 1853 slave narrative memoir Twelve Years a Slave and the mystery surrounding details of his death and burial.

REVIEW:

Many countries have had slavery in their history, but I swear the U.S. has to have had treated their slaves, not to mention anyone who didn’t agree with their way of thinking, the worst. 12 Years a Slave is another in a long line of films about the wrongs of slavery. This one was a critics’ darling, racking up the awards and forever etching itself in the history books, but how good is it, really?

What is this about?

Based on an incredible true story of one man’s fight for survival and freedom. In the pre-Civil War United States, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery. Facing cruelty (personified by a malevolent slave owner, portrayed by Michael Fassbender), as well as unexpected kindnesses, Solomon struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity. In the twelfth year of his unforgettable odyssey, Solomon’s chance meeting with a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt) will forever alter his life.

What did I like?

Tragedy. It is never comfortable talking about how inhumane people have been treated throughout history, whether it be the Native Americans losing their land, the Jews being oppressed by the Nazis, or slavery. Now, to make this a more dramatic story, our protagonist needed to be a free man, a successful one by the looks of it, with a wife and kids. He is led to believe that his violin prowess may allow him to earn a couple of extra bucks in Washington, D.C., but it turns out that he has been kidnapped and will become a slave, a practice that was commonplace, sadly. What is the most tragic about this? As it turns out, this is based on a true story!

New stars. One of the reasons we haven’t got that Black Panther movie yet is that there just aren’t enough African-American actors that can bring in audiences and, let’s face it, Will Smith, Denzel Washington, Jamie Foxx, Idris Elba, and to a lesser extent, Djimon Hounsou, aren’t going to be around forever. With 42 and this summer’s Get On Up, we have a new star in Chadwick Bozeman, but I think his talent may be eclipsed by the stars of this film, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Lupita Nyong’o. I always say that films of yesteryear have actors that actually act, while today they just read the lines and collect a paycheck. Well, these two are a throwback, as they put everything have into these roles, and boy was it worth it!

Better than the Americans. As someone who live down here in Louisiana, I’m more than a little qualified to comment on the authenticity of these accents. Something that I noticed in the film is that the actors from other countries, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o, as well as Brd Pitt (mainly because he’s been in a ton of movies based in and around New Orleans, most notably Interview with the Vampire and The Curious Life of Benjamin Button), all have better southern accents than the Americans (Fassbender does let his Irish slip out now and then). I just find this amusing.

Sing a song. Watch any documentary about slavery, the south, the Civil War, etc., and you’ll hear Negro spirituals. This makes it a no-brainer that with all the scenes of slaves working out in the field, there needs to be some singing. It is a small thing, but sometimes those little things can make the biggest difference, especially when it comes to historical accuracy.

What didn’t I like?

Balance. I am not sure how much different there is between the film and the book, but I would hope that there is a better balance. As it stands, the film spends more time with the “bad guys” than with those that have a more understanding nature. In other words, more of Cumberbatch’s character and/or the Judge person the slaves were shipped off to, would have been nice, rather than a constant barrage of Fassbender and his wife.

N. The ‘N’ word is perhaps the worst term in the English language. Some have said that it is better to listen to a string of obscenities and gutter talk than to hear one utterance of the ‘n’ word, and I cannot argue with that, to be honest. Here we have a slight controversy. With this film, the ‘N’ word is used for historical purposes, but that is the same reason Quentin Tarrantino gave for his constant use of the word in Django Unchained. What is the difference? I couldn’t really find one, other than the different in the directors’ skin color. I think this film makes better use of the word, however, but still takes it a bit too far. I don’t want to get up on a soapbox about this today, but it should be said that the ‘n’ word doesn’t need to be used everytime a film set in the time of slaves is released. If that’s the case, then we’ll get an R-rated Huckleberry Finn when someone finally decides to make another movie about him, and who wants that, really…especially if the rating is based on language!!!

Token white guy. Mr. All-American himself, Brad Pitt, makes an appearance near the film’s end and “saves the day”. Now, there are two ways to look at his appearance. Before I get into that, though, let it be known that Pitt does his usual job of turning in a fine performance. However, why did Pitt have to play that role? Couldn’t it have been some schlub from the street? Second, apologies if this is in the book, but couldn’t someone else have taken the letter? Perhaps a slave from the Underground Railroad? Period withstanding, it just seems as if they were looking for a white guy to “save the day”. Again, I haven’t read the book, so this point may be moot and I could be way off-base. If so, then I accept that.

Very rarely do I agree with the critics, let alone the Academy, but 12 Years a Slave is one of those films that deserves all the accolades that have been lauded on it and then some. Now, I warn you this is a powerful film that you’re more than likely not going to want to just pop in and watch everyday, but it is a film that needs to be seen. Chances are, students will be watching parts of this in history classes in a few years, much the same way they’ve watched Roots and North and South. Do I recommend this? Yes, very highly. It is definitely one of those films that everyone needs to see before they die!

5 out of 5 stars

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 18, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Walter Mitty is a negative assets manager at Life magazine who daydreams of adventures and has a crush on a coworker named Cheryl. Mitty works with photojournalist Sean O’Connell, whose images are highly regarded. O’Connell has sent Mitty his latest negatives and a wallet as a gift in appreciation of Mitty’s work. O’Connell believes negative #25 captures the “quintessence” of Life and that it should be used for the cover of the magazine’s final print issue as it converts to online status. The negative is missing, however, and Walter is forced to stall for time with corporate transition manager Ted Hendricks, who is handling the downsizing. While viewing the other negatives outside Life’s offices, Cheryl approaches Mitty and suggests that he think of the negatives as clues to Sean’s location. They look at three of them, including one of a person’s thumb with a unique ring on it, and another of a curved piece of wood. A third picture of a boat leads Mitty to determine that O’Connell is in Greenland. Mitty promptly flies there to find him.

A bartender in Greenland explains that O’Connell left on a ship. To find him, Mitty would need to go on the postal helicopter, and the pilot is drunk. Mitty recognizes the pilot’s thumb with the unique ring and realizes he is on the right track. He at first declines to fly with the intoxicated pilot, but imagines Cheryl singing “Space Oddity”, gains a new confidence and boards the helicopter. Nearing the ship, Mitty learns the helicopter cannot land upon it. Misunderstanding the pilot, instead of jumping into a dinghy boat nearing to catch him, Mitty aims for the main vessel and misses. He splashes down into ice-cold, shark-infested waters, losing a box of ship-to-shore radio components before being brought aboard.

Mitty learns that O’Connell departed the ship earlier. The crew offers him some cake O’Connell left behind; Mitty discovers O’Connell’s destinations in the wrapping paper. The itinerary directs Mitty to Iceland, where O’Connell is photographing the volcano Eyjafjallajökull. An eruption forces Mitty to flee, and as there is nothing left for him to do he obeys a text message recalling him to New York.

For failing to recover the negative, his first failure in a long career with the magazine, Mitty is fired. He learns that Cheryl, who was let go earlier, seems to have reconciled with her estranged husband. Mitty returns home discouraged, throwing away the wallet when he visits his mother. To his surprise, Mitty recognizes the curve of the piano in his mother’s house while looking at the last photograph. When asked, Mitty’s mom mentions having met O’Connell. She had told Mitty before but he was daydreaming and failed to hear her.

Mitty discovers O’Connell is in the Himalayas, and finds him photographing a rare snow leopard. When asked about the negative, O’Connell explains that the message on the gift wrapping to “look inside” was literal; the negative was in the wallet. When pressed to reveal the image on the negative, O’Connell dismisses the question and joins in a high-altitude soccer game with some locals. Mitty flies to Los Angeles but is detained by airport security during a misunderstanding. Mitty calls the only person he knows in Los Angeles: Todd Maher, a representative at eHarmony who has kept in contact during Mitty’s adventures.

While helping his mother sell her piano, Mitty recounts his story but mentions he does not have the wallet anymore. His mother says she always keeps his knickknacks and gives him the wallet that she retrieved from the trash. An emboldened Mitty delivers the negative to Life magazine, tells management that it was the photograph O’Connell wanted for the final issue, and berates Hendricks for disrespecting the staff that made the magazine so honored.

Mitty reunites with Cheryl and learns that Cheryl’s ex-husband was only at her house to repair the refrigerator. Mitty tells Cheryl of his adventures and admits that he still does not know what negative #25 shows. Mitty and Cheryl see the final issue of Life at a newsstand, with its cover dedicated to the staff. It is accompanied by the photograph from negative #25, showing Mitty sitting outside of the Life building, examining a contact sheet. Mitty and Cheryl continue their walk down the street holding hands.

REVIEW:

I swear, everytime I went to the movies earlier this year and last year, there would be a trailer before the trailers started and then a trailer proper for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Eventually, they wore me down and I wanted to see it, but not so sure it would have been worth seeing in the theater, as it looked to be too much on the drama side, as opposed to the adventure genre. Did I make a mistake by waiting? Was this worth watching at all?

What is this about?

In this remake of the 1947 classic comedy, shy photo manager Walter Mitty is constantly daydreaming to escape his humdrum life and domineering mother, but when he gets embroiled in a real-life adventure, he discovers that being a hero is tough work.

What did I like?

Solid as a rock. Ben Stiller has had quite the intriguing career up to this point. For the most part, he is a comedic actor, but usually he is cast as the straight man who gets to crack a joke or two. That is, unless he is doing a cameo or something along the lines of Zoolander. As Walter Mitty, he gets to go back to a bit more serious role, and he shocks all of us that forgot this guy is capable of acting.

Cameos. A couple of characters make effective cameos. First, Patton Oswalt as some sort of eHarmony technical support guy that Stiller’s character becomes friends with over time. Is he just a voice, or a real person? Do we ever get to meet the guy? You just have to wait and see. Speaking of mysterious beings, Sean Penn’s character, the elusive and reclusive photographer Sean O’Connell inspires Stiller to track him down in a quest to find the missing negative #25, only to find out that it was somewhere he hadn’t looked. Still, having Sean Penn as this mysterious, strange character was inspired casting, as he was a nice addition to the cast.

Fantasy. In its heyday, Scrubs was one of my favorite shows, mainly because of how J.D. would zone out and have these outlandish fantasies. The same kind of idea applies with Walter. His fantasies, which become less and less as the film progresses, are the kind that we all have, such as wanting to have an epic throwdown with out dick of a boss. Many people say that the love story or the character development are the best part of this film, but I prefer the fantasies.

What didn’t I like?

Peach fuzz. Adam Scott has made a career out of playing a dick, save for his role on Parks & Recreation. It is a role that suits him, that’s for sure. However, he needs to face the fact that some men just aren’t meant to have facial hair, especially a full beard. It just doesn’t work. For me, looking at him, I couldn’t help but laugh at how fake that beard looked. If that was real, that’s even worse! The beard was so out of place that Stiller’s character make mention of it!

Losing what works. I haven’t read the book that this film is based on, so this point is null and void if the movie isn’t faithful to the source material. The fantasy element that I mentioned earlier which was gradually faded out caused the film to lose some of its lighthearted feel. Sure from there on the action is more prominent and all, but there is just something that fit this character better when he was daydreaming about climbing the Himalayas, rather than actually doing it.

Anticlimactic meeting. The whole film, we hear about Sean Penn’s character as if he was some sort of superhero, but when we finally meet him, he’s just the typical character played by Penn. I wish they would have done something more with him, even if it was to make him more eccentric looney, playing up the comedy angle of the film. At any rate, I felt that after all the hoopla there was before the big reveal, if  you will, as well as the epic journey Stiller’s character embarked on to get to him was a bit anticlimactic, especially since he had already been fired. So, what was the point?

I really don’t have much else to say about The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. This is a solid film, with surprising performances from comedians Ben Stiller and Kristen Wiig. Mixing comedy, drama, and adventure, this film manages to strike a nice balance among them all, never allowing the film to become heavy in one genre or another unless it is time. Do I recommend this film? Well, I won’t not recommend it. For me, it was a bit slow in parts and there just wasn’t anything to make me want to come back and watch it again. It just exists, but I won’t dissuade anyone that wants to see it for themselves.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

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