Archive for December, 2009

Lost in Space

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 22, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In the year 2058, Earth will soon be uninhabitable after the irreversible effects of pollution. The United Global Space Force serves as the planetary government. Professor John Robinson, lead scientist of the Jupiter Mission, will lead his family to the habitable planet Alpha Prime to prepare it for colonization by building a hypergate in orbit. The Jupiter 2 is equipped with a hyperdrive that allows faster-than-light travel, which will eventually be employed to evacuate the citizens of Earth. However hypergates must be constructed on Earth and Alpha Prime to provide stable points of departure and arrival. The project is accelerated after Global Sedition terrorist forces send two armed fighters to destroy the hypergate under construction. Major Don West, a fighter pilot from the hypergate defense force, manages to destroy the enemy fighters and later is unwillingly drafted as the new pilot of the Jupiter Mission, as the previous pilot has been assassinated. He displays resentment against going on the mission but likes the ship and makes unsuccessful advances on Dr. Judy Robinson, John Robinson’s eldest daughter.

The Robinson family is having troubles of its own. John has been neglecting his role as a father due to his work on the Jupiter mission. His second daughter, Penny is a rebel teenager who doesn’t want to leave earth, Will, the youngest and only son, is an intelligent boy (he builds a “time machine”) but feels neglected by his father’s absence, due to his work on the mission, and feels his father doesn’t care about him, going so far as to black out his school for his experiment on the time machine in an attempt to get his father’s attention.

Dr. Zachary Smith, the Doctor overseeing the Robinson’s health conditions for the flight, is bribed by the Global Sedition to sabotage the mission via reprogramming the Jupiter 2’s robot’s orders to “Sixteen hours in commission destroy Robinson family. Destroy all systems”. However before Smith can escape, he is betrayed by his employers. He is barely able to save himself from death but is knocked unconscious and left as an unwilling stowaway as the ship blasts off.

The launch goes ahead without any problems. The Robinsons go into cryostasis before lift off. Major West however, continues to feel like all his career was a waste “just to take the family on a interstellar picnic”. He is able to hit on Judy again before cryostasis but again gets spurned in the attempt. He too goes into his stasis pod after putting the ship on autopilot.

Dr. Smith awakens to discover the ship has taken off and the robot comes online. When he fails to stop the robot, he awakens the Robinsons and West from cryostasis. After its destruction of several systems, Will is able to disable the robot. The sabotage causes the ship to veer towards the sun. Realizing, after a few failed attempts, that it would be impossible to escape the sun’s pull at such close range, Major West and Professor Robinson decide to fly through the sun, using the ship’s hyperdrive. Unfortunately, without a hypergate to warp through, the ship and its crew end up in a random (and apparently uncharted) part of the galaxy. Dr. Smith is immediately imprisoned.

Upon arrival, they encounter a “hole in space” in the vicinity of an extraterrestrial planet. Major West takes the Jupiter 2 into the hole, against John’s orders, where the crew encounters the Proteus, an Earth ship from the future. Attached to the ship is an unknown alien ship. Dr. Smith is forced into a space suit and is to be part of the boarding party, leaving Maureen, Penny, and Will on the ship to scan for any lifeforms.

Everyone, including the Jupiter robot, reprogramed and controlled by Will via remote control, board the Proteus. After searching the ship, they find the ship is deserted, except for a harmless, child-like alien lifeform. They find the Proteus’ star charts and download it, while Dr. Smith is able to steal a remote control from a futuristic robot, similar to their Robot’s. Everyone soon discovers the ship has been infested with carnivorous and cannibalistic silicon-based spider-like lifeforms. In the midst of the battle to escape the ship unharmed, Dr. Smith receives a deep wound from a spider’s claw, and the Jupiter 2‘s robot is destroyed. Major West self-destructs the Proteus, destroying the spiders. However, the shock wave from the explosion damages the Jupiter 2, and they crash-land on the nearby planet.

On the mysterious planet, they locate a fuel source with which to refuel the damaged engines of the Jupiter 2. However, it lies in the center of a massive “bubble” of mysterious origin. Professor Robinson and Major West explore the bubble and discover it is actually an area of time distortion where alternate future versions of Dr. Smith and Will have constructed a time machine, powered by their Jupiter 2‘s power core, and are planning on returning to Earth at an earlier time to prevent the family from getting lost in the first place.

Will (armed) and Smith both enter the bubble in search for Robinson and West, Smith having manipulated Will into thinking that the two adults are in danger. Smith finds improvised gravestones of all the women of the flight and is able to hide them from Will. When Smith and Will come across the future Jupiter, Smith disarms Will through further manipulation and both enter the future Jupiter.

The unaltered Dr. Smith takes control of the robot, via the remote he stole from the Proteus, and has it accept only his voice commands.They are all betrayed by the future Smith, who is revealed to have transformed into a gigantic space spider/human hybrid as a result of the spider scratch he received on the Proteus. He knocks the human Dr. Smith unconscious, and imprisons the Robinsons and West.

Under guard by the futuristic robot, West and Prof. Robinson begin to plan an escape but Will is able to help free the robot by removing the remote. Prof. Robinson stays behind to bring back the core material, while the rest of the group head back to the Jupiter. Coming across the unconscious Dr. Smith, West grudgedly carries him on his back. The group immediately heads back towards the Jupiter 2 of their time.

The alternate Will soon discovers that he repressed memories of Smith killing all the women and changes the time portal’s size, limiting the size of a “man” that can enter. Smith then reveals his plan to go back in time to Earth and spread his spider race across the Earth. Robinson soon battles Spider Smith, while Major West returns to the other Jupiter 2, without the power source, to try to evacuate the other Robinsons. Will successfully stops Spider Smith by slashing him across the face with a dagger and sticking it into the eggsac on his back, causing the baby spiders to come out and start eating Spider Smith (Will discovered that the spiders eat their wounded while they were on the Proteus). Spider Smith dies when Robinson kicks him into the time machine’s field while it is too small for his massive form, killing him.

The family attempts to escape, but the time bubble has made the planet unstable, and it is violently breaking apart. As a result of not retrieving the extra power core, the ship still does not have enough power to reach escape velocity. The stranded John Robinson watches as the Jupiter 2 is hit by debris and explodes in the sky. Future Will realizes his father does indeed love his family, and lets John use the time portal and travel back in time to the Jupiter 2 just before it launched from his planet. The power core could only fuel one trip back through time, and Future Will stays behind, wishing his family luck. Rather than attempt to escape into the atmosphere, John commands West to pilot the ship through the planet’s core as it is breaking up, enabling them to use the planet’s gravity to propel the ship through the other side. They escape, but the collapsed planet forms a gravity well that begins to suck in the Jupiter 2. Once again the Robinsons must activate the hyperdrive; however, this time they are able to target Alpha Prime using data downloaded from the Proteus‘ more detailed star charts. The film ends with the Robinsons and West activating the hyperdrive, presumably transporting the ship to Alpha Prime. The last lines in the movie are West’s “Targeting Alpha Prime, I hope” followed by Will’s reply: “Cool!”.

REVIEW:

I don’t know much about the original Lost in Space TV series, other than the robot always went around saying “Danger, Will Robison!” I’m not sure if this was a good or bad thing for my opinion of this film, though.

When I chose to watch this this evening, I was expecting cheesy sci-fi goodness and references to the old TV show. The same that expect for any film that is a remake of an old TV show (since no one, except James Cameron, can come up with their own ideas anymore).

The film starts off pretty good with a fight in space and all, but then it turns into some sort of melodrama involving kids being unhappy with their parents, insubordination by a military officer, deceit by a doctor, corruption, etc. Normally, this is stuff that wouldn’t be bad, but it just isn’t handled very well.

This is a pretty good cast, especially if you look at where most of them are in their careers today, but they just don’t convince me that they enjoyed working on this film. Some of them looked downright miserable. The worst culprits were HEather Graham and Matt LeBlac. Graham seems to be painfully trying to be a serious actress here, and it just doesn’t work..at least for me. I don’t know what it is, but she just doesn’t have the face of a serious actress. LeBlanc has a similar problem. He can give the performance of his life, but his just doesn’t have the look to be a serous actor. Although, this character did seem to suit him, personality-wise, it was the action stuff that I couldn’t buy.

The special effects in this are just plain bad, especially the space monkey and the spider monster version of Dr. Smith. Although the monkey did seem to be a bit cartoonish and all, which is fine, the spider monster had the same kind of look, which, for a villain, is not something that you would want. I’m taking into account that this was nearly 15 yrs ago and technology has come a long way, but this was still bad effects.

It really is no wonder that this film is forgotten lore. There is nothing remarkable about it, good or bad. It’s just a below average film, that at just over 2 hrs is too long for the kid of film it is. There are moments that seem like it doesn’t know if it wants to be a serious sci-fi film or a comedy. Had a true direction been found and some moe attention paid to the original series, this may have been a pretty good film, but as it is, they did neither and we were stuck with this.

2 out of 5 stars

The Babysitters

Posted in Drama, Independent, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , on December 22, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The movie begins with a voice over by Shirley Lyner (Waterston) as we see a wood cabin with mostly middle-aged men and teenage girls in various states of undress. In the voice-over she explains that this is her babysitting service, then dismisses child abuse or neglect as a cause for why she started it.

Flash back to several months prior, and Shirley is obsessively arranging items in her room when Michael Beltran (Leguizamo) picks her up for a babysitting job. She shows obvious signs of being attracted to him. After the babysitting is finished, Michael drives Shirley home and they stop into a diner to eat, where they flirt heavily and Michael admits frustration with how his wife has changed and Shirley says she doesn’t have a boyfriend because she finds guys her age to be too immature. She also admits to being an obsessive compulsive cleaner and organizer.

At school we meet Shirley’s friends: Melissa, a confident, cynical junior trying to get into Brown a year early, and Brenda, a very chatty girl who seems to have self esteem issues.

The next babysitting outing, Michael and his wife Gail (Nixon) are meeting with Michael’s friend Jerry, who has a business proposition for him. Gail is frustrated that Michael wants to take it, while Michael gets curious about an abandoned trainyard behind the restaurant that Gail shows no interest in. When Michael is driving Shirley home that night, they stop at the trainyard and explore it, eventually sharing a kiss. Michael pays her some extra money not to tell anyone about the kiss. On the next babysitting job, they actually have sex.

At school Melissa eventually wrings the truth about the babysitting outings from Shirley, who admits the extra money is nice. At the same time Michael confesses the transgression to Jerry, who sympathizes with him. Soon, Michael asks Shirley if any of her other friends can “babysit” and Melissa volunteers. After Melissa’s outing, Shirley asks her for 20% of the money as her cut, which Melissa agrees is fair. They eventually convince Brenda to take a babysitting job and Melissa pushes Shirley not to warn her about the expected sex. At first it shocks Brenda, but the man with her is very reserved and nervous, eventually boosting Brenda’s confidence. The next day, Brenda agrees to the terms and the girls set up a working business, going so far as to have business cards printed up. Meanwhile, Michael is continuing to have trouble at his job and learns that Shirley is babysitting for others besides him, which makes him uncomfortable. His wife is suspicious of his continual long nights at the office, but he denies wrongdoing.

The first problem arises when Brenda invites her younger stepsister Nadine into the group without checking with Shirley. Nadine is much more abrasive and aggressive than Brenda and questions why Shirley gets a cut. She soon starts her own competing business behind Shirley’s back, and Shirley starts to lose customers while seeing Nadine and her friends wearing designer clothes and jewelry. Melissa suggests breaking into her locker to find proof and they enlist Michael’s help. When they find no evidence in Nadine’s locker, they vandalize the entire school to cover their tracks, making sure to target the lockers of other girls who were working with Nadine. Shirley meets with all of them and threatens more reprisals unless they follow the rules. After the meeting, Melissa presents Shirley with fake permission slips for a trip to Jerry’s cabin for a weekend. The girls will be going under the pretense of a school trip, while the men will be there on a “business retreat”.

At the party, Michael is increasingly uncomfortable with Shirley being with other guys while Jerry questions why Michael doesn’t go with any of the other girls. Jerry has supplied drugs at the party, and Brenda has a negative reaction to the Ecstasy. Jerry attempts to rape her, but amid Brenda’s verbal resistance and cries for her mother, decides not to proceed.

At her next babysitting job, Brenda has a breakdown and runs out. When Shirley talks to her, Brenda says she wants out, which Shirley agrees with, but Melissa privately expresses worry that Brenda will talk. These worries are increased when Melissa is accepted to Brown. Michael’s wife confronts him about his distance and that he has been lying about his job situation, since he was just taken off of a major project. Michael finally voices some of his frustrations about the marriage, while Gail responds with hers.

On her own initiative, Melissa has several of their customers attack and threaten Brenda’s brother. Nadine assures Brenda that everything will be fine, while Shirley gets angry at Melissa and tries unsuccessfully to contact Brenda. Michael and Shirley, out at the trains again, have an argument where Michael tries to encourage Shirley to run away with him, while Shirley reminds him that this is just business and he’s deluding himself. He’s forced to abandon her when a cop shows up, and Shirley tries to contact Brenda for a ride. Upon hearing that Nadine is babysitting without her knowledge, she calls Melissa, who is with Jerry, and they go to confront her. They interrupt Nadine at a parking garage and nearly throw her off the roof. At that point, Shirley discovers that it is her own father that is with Nadine.

The scene cuts out to another voiceover by Shirley, who says that everything stopped and they all have to live with the consequences, though it’s implied that no legal action resulted. The last scene is of Shirley parking across the street from Michael’s house. She sees Michael interacting with his family, apparently trying to mend the rifts.

REVIEW:

It seems as if Netflix wasn’t going to rest until I watched this. Everyday  when I would go to the page, they recommended this, so finally I decided to break down and watch it.

The Babysitters centers around a group girls who start an escort service under the guise of a babysitting service. The problem is that they are all underage and end up having affairs with the men who hire them.

That right there is enough to turn you off from this film. The whole topic of underage sex is a bit taboo, and the fact they’re covering it up as a babysitting service just makes me think.

The film as a whole just seems to plod along with no rhythm or rhyme. Once the plot devices are established, the film just seems to go through the motions. I questioned why I was still watching this thing.

No, I would not suggest anyone o subject themselves to the torture that is this film. It just isn’t worth it, even for an independent film. The best scenes, as bad as this may sound, is where the star, Katherine Waterston,  straddles John Leguizamo and takes her shirt off. Yeah, a topless scene is the best thing about this film. Not because of the toplessness, but because it wasn’t as boring as the rest of the picture. Avoid this like the plague, if you can!

1 out of 5 stars

The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 19, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Ben Selleck’s car dealership is failing and he is forced to hire a mercenary, Don Ready. They have 211 cars to sell over the 4th of July weekend. Don’s team of Babs, Jibby, and Brent promise Ben that they will make the dealership a profit after the weekend.

On the first day the crowds gather outside for hot dogs and other gimmicks. Don notices that the naturally talented salesman, Blake, could be his son (he was in the town before and had a brief fling while there). The sales team sell the cars by any means necessary and finish the day selling 71 cars. Before they can leave the lot Stu and his son Paxton from the opposing dealership offer to purchase the lot. Since Paxton is marrying Ben’s daughter, Ivy, he is trying to put his future father-in-law out of business. Paxton only wants practice space for his “man-band”, Big Ups, and eventually wants to take them worldwide. Ben is about to finalize a deal with Stu but Don promises to sell every car on the lot.

The second day starts off poorly with a dishonest commercial that Ben is dying of testicular cancer. When it is time for Eric Bice, Bo Bice’s brother to take the stage he backs out at the last minute and Don takes the stage. The crowd riots when they find out Don is an atrocious singer. Taking advantage of all the cameras on the lot from the riot, the team starts a sale for 20% off to the police.

Don is taking stock in his life when Ivy questions him about one of his jobs in Albuquerque. Don tells her that he killed his best friend and team DJ, McDermott (played in a flashback by Will Ferrell), by giving him a bag with sex toys instead of a parachute. Don was more focused on having sex with his customer than selling cars. He then reveals to Ivy that he is falling for her and it is all happening again. That night Ivy comes to Don’s hotel room and they have sex.

Ivy reveals that it was a one night stand and is not breaking up with Paxton. Don is furious and storms out yelling that he only loves cars. The team searches but cannot find Don, they get pumped up to sell the 105 cars left on the lot without him. While wandering the desert Don sees the deceased McDermott with two angels. McDermott tells Don that everything is about the team, people you love, and that he should get off the road. In the time it takes Don to get back to the dealership the team sells every car on the lot.

Don parachutes onto the lot but Stu and Paxton inform him the “bandit car” (an expensive prop that was used in the Smokey and the Bandit films) is not sold and the dealership is theirs. Don convinces Paxton to buy the bandit car, which saves the lot, and Paxton leaves Ivy to tour with his band. Don announces that he is going to get off the road so he can care for his friends and family more. Don marries Ivy and adopts Blake (despite the fact that Blake knows he is not, in fact, Don’s son) but they get divorced two years later.

REVIEW:

It seems as if no one cares for Jeremy Piven anymore. Perhaps that is why The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard didn’t do that great at the box office…or maybe it was because this film isn’t that great.

Now, I don’t want to give anyone the impression that they should stay away from this picture, because that is not what I’m saying. I’m just making sure that you all know that if you decide to skip this film, you won’t be missing much.

Jeremy Piven and his band of cronies do what they can to carry this film, but none really break out and shine. The closest one to accomplishing anything close to being a memorable character is Kathryn Hahn as Babs, wo apparently is either a nympho or just wants ot have sex with a 10yr old boy in a man’s body. Ving Rames isn’t bad, but he just seems to be the token black guy here. He does end up with the hottest girl in the picture, Noureen De Wulf.

Will Ferrell shows up as a cameo appearance that solves the mystery of what happened in ‘Querque, and actually provides a much needed lift to the film, even moreso the second time he shows up (with the two cussing, backup singing angels).

I don’t know, this whole picture just seems poorly done. It’s like they decided to give Jeremy Piven a vehicle and then surround hims with some comedians and hope they make it funny. Belive it or not, that wouldn’t have been a bad idea, except for the fact that this film isn’t that funny. At the same time, it isn’t boring or dramatic, just doesn’t really keep your attention. Its jus ta below average comedy that is better left on the shelf, if you ask me.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

The Soloist

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on December 19, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In 2005, the only thing hurting Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez more than his face from a recent bike accident was his pressing need for story ideas. That is when he discovers Nathaniel Ayers, a mentally ill, homeless street musician who possesses extraordinary talent, even through his half-broken instruments. Inspired by his story, Lopez writes an acclaimed series of articles about Ayers and attempts to do more to help both him and the rest of the underclass of LA have a better life. However, Lopez’s good intentions run headlong in the hard realities of the strength of Ayers’ personal demons and the larger social injustices facing the homeless. Regardless, Lopez and Ayers must find a way to conquer their deepest anxieties and frustrations to hope for a brighter future for both of them.

REVIEW:

When I first heard about this film, I thought it was going to be about a gifted musician who some random guy finds on the street and helps get back on his feet and maybe even into Carnegie Hall, or something along those lines. I was so wrong.

The film is a true story about Nathaniel Ayers’ schizophrenia and the tragic tale that is his life. We also get a bit of Steve Lopez who somehow turned a weekly column in the Los Angeles Times to a book and then into a movie. Can we say cashing in?

Both Foxx and Downey give superb performances and remind audiences that they can indeed act. There are times that I was in awe as to how involved with these characters the men were, especially Downey, but that may be because he just seems to be the type to use proper words.

I don’t know about you, but if I see the title The Soloist and know that it is about some sort of musician, I expect to see some music. I was highly disappointed to barely hear any in the picture. Sure there was Beethoven all through the film’s score and a couple of orchestral scenes and whatnot, but it just wasn’t enough for me.

My expectations were riding high for this one. The past few movies with musical plots that I’ve seen have been nothing short of spectacular. The Soloist turns out an unprepared, unpracticed nerve ridden solo, that even the stellar casting of its lead actors can’t save it. Still, there are some touching moments, and the Foxx’s character is relatable to the audience. While I wouldn’t suggest watching this more than once, it is worth a viewing.

4 out of 5 stars

Avatar

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 19, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In 2154 AD, humans are engaged in the colonization of Pandora, the lush moon of Polyphemus, one of three gas giants that orbit Alpha Centauri A, 4.3 light years from Earth. Pandora is filled with incredible life forms, and is home to the Na’vi, an indigenous sentient humanoid race who are considered primitive by human standards, yet are more physically capable than them. The Na’vi are tailed, slender creatures with sparkling blue skin, standing three meters tall. They live in harmony with their unspoiled world, which the humans have found to be rich with unobtainium,a valuable mineral that is essential to remedying an economic and energy crisis that is gripping Earth.

Humans are unable to breathe the Pandoran atmosphere; in order to interact with the Na’vi, human scientists have created genetically engineered human-Na’vi hybrid bodies called Avatars, and use them to interact with the natives and gain their trust for a relocating operation. A human who shares genetic material with the avatar can be mentally linked to it, allowing them to control its functions and experience what it experiences, while their own body sleeps. The story’s protagonist, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), is a former U.S. Marine who was wounded and paralyzed from the waist down in combat on Earth. His twin brother Tony was a scientist working on the Avatar program; when he is killed, Jake is extended the opportunity to take his brother’s place, as he shares Tony’s genetic material and is therefore compatible with his avatar.

Jake travels to Pandora, and assumes control of his avatar body, delighted at being able to walk and run once again as a whole being. Sent deep into Pandora’s jungles as a scout for the soldiers that will follow, Jake encounters many of Pandora’s beauties and dangers. There he meets a young Na’vi female, Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña), who teaches him the ways of her people: the Omaticaya clan of the Na’vi. Despite having originally been sent to gain the trust of natives, and convince them to abandon their Hometree, which sits above a large deposit of unobtanium, Jake finds himself caught between the military-industrial forces of Earth, and his love for his adopted home and people. He is forced to choose sides as the humans grow increasingly violent in their mining activities, and the oppressed Na’vi rise up to protect their home, resulting in an epic battle that will decide the fate of an entire race.

REVIEW:

Avatar is, above all, something different to come out in theaters. What’s different about it? Well, it’s not based on a comic book, novel, foreign film, musical, and most importantly…IT IS NOT A REMAKE!!!!  I guess you could say the most refreshing thing about it is that it is…now brace yourself for this…*GASP* an original idea!

James Cameron apparently has had this story in his head since he was a young boy. The fantastical world of the Na’vi that he has created rival that of Oz, Wonderland, and other wonderous worlds we’ve seen on film.

Let’s get the bad parts out of the way first…At 3 hrs long, this film is a bit lengthy. Sometimes 3 hrs can work for a film, and other times it works against it. Avatar suffers from the latter. Although the special effects are nothing short of spectacular, and the scenery is breathtaking, the film itself drags on and has the lull in the middle that I can’t stand. It even gets a bit preachy during this period, which makes it worse.

It seems apparent that Netyri knows that Jake is not a Na’vi, but it is never fully reveled to the audience until the plot thickens after the film’s apex. I would have liked for the filmmakers to have either made it clear that she does or doesn’t know. That goes for the entire tribe…with the exception of Mo’at, she should know based on her role in the tribe being similar to that of a medicine woman.

Speaking of tribes…I was under the impression that there was only one giant tribe on planet Pandora, but at the end of the film, all of a sudden there are tribes popping up all over the place. Now, I’m not saying they should have been made known at film’s beginning or anything like that, but rather, they could/should have been mentioned during Jake’s learning period. I don’t know, maybe I’m the only one that thinks that, though.

Finally, when it is revealed Jake is a traitor, they leave him to die, but do everything they can for Grace, even after they had just had her hanging for crimes against the tribe. This is very minor, but it just seemed a bit weird that not five minutes before she was a criminal and then she is forgiven.

Also regarding Sigourney Weaver’s avatar…she looks like Sigourney Weaver in blue makeup. For some reason, her face wasn’t altered. I’m not sure why this was, but my belief is that she was an early model avatar, before they perfected the process.

On the positive side, the special effects are gorgeous. The luminating forest took my breath away. You could even go so far as to say the scenery is another star of this film.

If I was an actor in Hollywood, I’d be a little worried. It seems to be that the trend is to motion capture, or whatever the word is, your movements, rather than actually cast you. Take for instance Zoe Saldana. She plays Netyri, but unless you pay close attention, you would never know. Sure she’s has her recognizable movements, but you just know that had this been done with her in makeup, she’d be more recognizable. That being said, they did a smashing job making her look like herself, only as a Na’vi.

Sci-fi films of late have been known for making stars. If this picture ends up being as big as they think it’ll be, then Zoe Saldana and Sam Worthington will be on their way to bigger and better things.

Someone brought this up in their review of this film last night, and I would like to touch in it briefly….Michelle Rodriguez is actually playing a character with a heart. Shocked? I know I was. Usually, she plays these hard characters with a hidden agenda. On top of that, she seemed a bit cuter, and dare I say it…HOT! Amazing what a change in attitude can do for someone, right?

Stephen Lang is downright scary as the colonel in charge of everything. On top of that, this old man is built, which made him more intimidating. I was almost expecting him to rip his skin off and reveal that he’s some sort of renegade Na’vi hellbent on destroying his own kind.

Music usually sets the tone for any film, no matter the genre, and James Horner’s dramatic, moving score doesn’t fail to deliver here. Then again, when has he ever failed to create a moving score?

One  of the most talked about films not to come out during the summer, Avatar has all the makings of a summer blockbuster, but with the added factor of making the audience actually think. James Cameron talked excessively about how this picture was going to revolutionize and change the way movies are made. I just didn’t see it. As a matter of fact, I’m a little upset that I paid the extra $1.50 for the 3D glasses. There were plenty of places 3D could have been used to its maximum potential, but just wasn’t. Heck, the previews took more advantage of it than the actual film. Having said that, though, it is worth the time and money to go see this in the theaters. I may have been a little disappointed with the 3D, but I belive that was more due to the hype. This is not a “game changing” film that way Cameron wanted it to be, but it is a very well made picture and something he and all that were part of it, should be proud to have been associated with. There is already talk of a sequel. As long as it doesn’t fall of from the quality of this one, or take away from the story, then I’m not complaining.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

The Phantom of the Opera (1925)

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on December 16, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The film opens with the debut of the new season at the Paris Opera House, with a production of Gounod’s Faust. Comte Philip de Chagny {John St. Polis} and his brother, the Vicomte Raoul de Chagny (Norman Kerry) are in attendance. Raoul attends only in the hope of hearing his sweetheart Christine Daae (Mary Philbin) sing. Christine, under the tuition of an unknown and mysterious coach, has made a sudden rise from the chorus to understudy of the prima donna. Raoul wishes for Christine to resign and marry him, but she refuses to let their relationship get in the way of her career.

At the height of the most prosperous season in the Opera’s history, the management suddenly resign. As they leave, they tell the new managers of the Opera Ghost, a phantom who asks for opera box #5, among other things. The new managers laugh it off as a joke, but the old management leave troubled.

The managers go to Box 5 to see exactly who has taken it. The keeper of the box does not know who it is, as she has never seen his face. The two managers enter the box and are startled to see a shadowy figure seated. They run out of the box and compose themselves, but when they enter the box again, the person is gone.

After the performance, the ballet girls are disturbed by the sight of a mysterious man (Arthur Edmund Carewe), who dwells in the cellars. Arguing whether or not he is the Phantom, they decide to ask Joseph Bouqet, a stagehand who has actually seen the ghost’s face. Bouquet describes a ghastly sight of a living skeleton to the girls, who are then startled by a shadow cast on the wall. The antics of stagehand Florine Papillon (Snitz Edwards) do not amuse Joseph’s brother, Simon (Gibson Gowland), who chases him off.

Meanwhile, Mme. Carlotta (Virginia Pearson), the prima donna of the Paris Grand Opera, barges into the managers office enraged. She has received a letter from “The Phantom,” demanding that Christine sing the role of Marguerite the following night, threatening dire consequences if his demands are not met.

In her next performance, Christine reaches her triumph during the finale and receives a standing ovation from the audience. When Raoul visits her in her dressing room, she pretends not to recognize him, because unbeknownst to the rest there, the Spirit is also there. Raoul spends the evening outside her door, and after the others have left, just as he is about to enter, he hears a man’s voice within the room. He overhears the voice make his intentions to Christine: “Soon, Christine, this spirit will take form and will demand your love!” When Christine leaves her room alone, Raoul breaks in to find it empty.

Carlotta receives another discordant note from the Phantom. Once again, it demands that she take ill and let Christine have her part. The managers also get a note, reiterating that if Christine does not sing, they will present “Faust” in a house with a curse on it.

The following evening, despite the Phantom’s warnings, a defiant Carlotta appears as Marguerite. At first, the performance goes well, but soon the Phantom’s curse takes its effect, causing the great, crystal chandelier to fall down onto the audience. Christine runs to her dressing room and is entranced by a mysterious voice through a secret door behind the mirror , descending, in a dream-like sequence, semi-conscious on horseback by a winding staircase into the lower depths of the Opera. She is then taken by gondola over a subterranean lake by the masked Phantom into his lair. When the Phantom admits to who he is and his love for her, Christine faints and is carried into a suite fabricated for her comfort.

The next day, when she awakens, she finds a note from Erik, The Phantom. He tells her that she is free to go as she pleases, but that she must never look behind his mask. In the next room, the Phantom is playing his composition, “Don Juan Triumphant.” It is the strangest and most weird music she has ever heard. Christine’s curiosity gets the better of her and she sneaks up behind the Phantom. Christine tears off the Phantom’s mask, revealing his hideously deformed face. Enraged, the Phantom makes his plans to hold her prisoner known. In an attempt to plead to him, he excuses her to visit her world one last time, with the condition that she never sees her lover again.

Released from the underground dungeon, Christine makes a rendezvous at the annual masked-ball, which is graced with the Phantom in the guise of the ‘Red-Death’ – from the Edgar Allan Poe tale of the same name. While on the roof, Christine tells Raoul everything. However, an unseen jealous Phantom perching on the statue of Apollo.

Raoul and Inspector Ledoux (the mystery man from the cellars) are then lured into the Phantom’s underground death-trap when Christine is kidnapped while onstage.

Philippe is drowned by Erik when he goes looking for Raoul in the cellars of the Opera. The Phantom gives Christine a choice of two levers: one shaped like a scorpion and the other like a grasshopper. One will save her lover Raoul and the other will blow up the Opera! Christine picks the Scorpion-however it is a trick by the Phantom-it will “save” Raoul and Ledoux from being blown up-by drowning them! Christine begs the Phantom to save Raoul by promising him anything. At the last second the Phantom opens a trapdoor in his floor through which Raoul and Ledoux are saved. The Phantom attempts to flee with Christine in a stolen carriage. However, in the final sequence, while Raoul saves Christine, Erik/Phantom is pursued and killed by a mob on the streets of Paris who after beating him, throw him into the Seine River to finally drown.

In the original 1925 version there was a short scene showing Christine and Raoul on a honeymoon.

(An alternate ending features Christine giving the Phantom her ring, then departing with Raoul. The Phantom shrieks in pain and falls over dead, of a broken heart.)

REVIEW:

With my love for classic cinema, it is hard to belive that I have never seen a silent film. Yet, this is my first. I can’t say that it’ll be me last, either.

Most of us know The Phantom of the Opera as a highly successful and long running Broadway musical, but would be surprised to find out that it was actually a book first (as many Broadway productions are). Unlike the theatrical musical version from a few years back, this version is closer to the novel. Don’t expect ot hear any of the music or songs you’re familiar with and associate with Phantom, because they won’t be there, mainly because Andrew Lloyd Weber, who composed the music for the Broadway version, wasn’t even a gleam in his parents’ eye (and won’t be for another 23 yrs).

The film itself is pretty good. There are some strange issues, but those are more related to the DVD release, rather than the actual film, such as the masquerade ball strangely going to color, whereas the rest of the film is in black and white (or that odd sepia tone).

I’ve said time and time again that films from yesteryear really showed what acting was. This is really true in silent films. These actors had to make the audience belive them without saying a word. THe actors in this film do just this, mostly through overexaggerated hand gestures and facial contortions, but you gotta do whatever works for you.

The big star of this film is Lon Chaney, a legend in the realms of classic movie monsters. As the Phantom, he reminds me of the Abominable Snowman from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I wonder if they got the idea from this flick. For this time period, Chaney is quite the frightening figure.

Strangely enough, it was almost a year ago to this day that I reviewed The Phantom of the Opera. There really isn’t anything remarkable about that, just noticed it. If you are one of those people who gets bored with classic films, or just needs to have people talking, then this isn’t the film for you. However, if you’re the kind that has a brain on your shoulders and is willing to giver anything a chance., feel free to check it out.

3 out of 5 stars 

A Christmas Carol (2004)

Posted in Family, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 15, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Lyricist Lynn Ahrens wrote the teleplay, based on her and Mike Ockrent’s book for the original Madison Square Garden stage musical. The score contains 22 songs, also adapted from the stage. The opening number, “Jolly Good Time”, is a more jovial reworking of the first two numbers in the stage version, “The Years Are Passing By” and “Jolly, Rich, and Fat”. In the next number, “Nothing to Do With Me”, Scrooge first encounters the three ghosts of Christmas in their real-world guises as a lamplighter (Past), a charity show barker (Present), and a blind beggar woman (Future). We also see Scrooge’s long-suffering employee Bob Cratchit buying a Christmas chicken with his son Tiny Tim in the song “You Mean More to Me”.

As in other musical adaptations of A Christmas Carol, the visit of the ghost of Jacob Marley becomes a large-scale production number (“Link By Link”), featuring a half-dozen singing, dancing spirits presented with various levels of makeup and special effects. One of these ghosts in this version is known to be an old colleague of Scrooge and Marley’s, Mr. Haynes, who was said to be “mean to the bone,” resulting to his charred skeleton. Other puns include a headless spirit who wanted to get ahead.

The Ghost of Christmas Past, portrayed in this film by a young woman (Jane Krakowski) rather than a man, sings “The Lights of Long Ago”, a number reinforcing her signature theme of illuminating Scrooge’s worldview. One notable departure from Dickens’ novella in this portion of the film is its depiction of Ebenezer Scrooge’s father, identified as John William Scrooge, being sentenced to debtor’s prison while his horrified family looks on (a scene inspired by events from Dickens’ own childhood).

The Ghost of Christmas Present gets two numbers, “Abundance and Charity” and “Christmas Together”, in which he makes his point that Christmas is a time for celebration, generosity, and fellowship. The former takes place at a fantastical version of the charity show he was seen promoting on Christmas Eve, and the latter whisks Scrooge on a tour of London that includes the homes of his nephew Fred, his clerk Bob Cratchit, and Mr. Smythe, a recently widowed client of Scrooge’s lending house.

Unlike the faceless phantom that embodies Christmas Yet to Come in most versions of A Christmas Carol (including the book), this film features a mute sorceress figure clad in white (a transmogrification of the blind hag who appears on Christmas Eve). The entire Christmas Future sequence plays out in song (“Dancing On Your Grave”, “You Mean More to Me (Reprise)”, and “Yesterday, Tomorrow, and Today”), culminating in Scrooge’s awakening in his bedroom on Christmas morning.

“What a Day, What a Sky” serves as a musical bookend to “Nothing to Do With Me”, dramatizing Scrooge’s new outlook as he races through the streets of London making amends. The film concludes with a reprise of “Christmas Together” featuring virtually the entire cast.

REVIEW:

Yeah, I know this is the third version of A Christmas Carol I’ve reviewed in the past couple of months. The second in the last couple of days, but this one is such a 180 from all the other versions that I just had to watch it.

Usually when you see A Christmas Carol, it is a dark, dreary version of London. Even in Mickey’s Christmas Carol, this is true. However, this version brings us a bright London. As a matter of fact, if I didn’t know better, I could’ve sworn I saw the sun in some of the scenes. If you’ve ever paid attention to London in film, you never see the sun, as it is almost always portrayed as a rainy place. Having never been there, I can say whether this is true or not.

A question was raised this summer somewhere asking what movie would you like to see as a musical. There so many I could envision, but A Christmas Carol isn’t one of them. Having said that, though, if I was going to make it a musical, it wouldn’t be as happy as this.

If you’ve read previous entires, then you are more than aware that I don’t normally go for the dark stuff, unless it is necessary. A dark tone works best for this story because it exemplifies how we meet Ebenezer Scrooge. The ending was fine with the lighter tone, though, because he is a happier person.

Other than a couple of songs in this film, the music is extremely forgettable, and even those couple aren’t exactly going to leave a lasting impression in your head.

The acting is ok for what it is. The focus seems to be more on the music, except for area here and there where there are no songs anywhere.

The feeling I got from this is that the producers didn’t spend much money on this. It feels as if it is a cheap TV film, which it is, but there’s no excuse. The 1984 version is a TV film and it, as I said before, is the gold standard by which they are all measured. There is nothing spectacular about this film, but it is a different version of the classic story, but I wouldn’t recommend it other than to see it once and form your own opinion. It just isn’t that good.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

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