Archive for December, 2009

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

From Dusk Till Dawn

Posted in Action/Adventure, Horror, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2009 by Mystery Man

 

PLOT:

The film opens with fugitive bank robbers and brothers Seth (George Clooney) and Richie Gecko (Quentin Tarantino) fleeing the F.B.I. and Texas police. During the first few minutes of the film, they hold up and then destroy a liquor store and kill the store clerk and a cop. Two witnesses they held hostage in the store escape during the shooting. They hold a bank clerk hostage in the trunk of their car, whom Richie later rapes and murders (offscreen) to Seth’s obvious dismay.

The Fuller family — Jacob (Harvey Keitel), the father, a pastor who is experiencing a crisis of faith, his Chinese American stepson Scott (Ernest Liu), and daughter Kate (Juliette Lewis) — are on a vacation in their RV. They stop at a motel and are promptly kidnapped by the Geckos, who force the Fullers to smuggle them past the Mexican border. Seth and Jacob make an uneasy truce: if the Geckos can make it past the border, Jacob and his family will come out of the ordeal unharmed. They succeed and arrive at the “Titty Twister”, a strip club in the middle of a desolate part of Mexico, where the Geckos will be met by their contact Carlos (Cheech Marin) at dawn. The Geckos demand that the Fullers have a drink with them before leaving, despite Kate’s obvious discomfort.

The group is initially rebuffed at the door by the doorman (Cheech Marin), and Seth, overreacting, beats him up before entering the club. Inside, they are again questioned and asked to leave by the bartender (Danny Trejo) until Jacob manages to convince him to let them stay by showing him his driver’s license, which has a trucker rating. Seth is not happy about having been talked out of the fight, and begins drinking heavily while encouraging the entire group (kids included) to do the same. Richie drinks as well, but takes special notice of the club’s star performer, Santanico Pandemonium (Salma Hayek) during an extended solo performance. However, near the end of her set, the doorman and bouncer that the pair beat up earlier arrive with back up, looking to settle the score with the Geckos. In a short confrontation, Richie is wounded, and as he bleeds, he is attacked by a transformed Santanico, now revealed as a vampire.

Chaos ensues as the employees and strippers are all revealed to be vampires. Most of the patrons are quickly killed, and Richie is bitten by Santanico and bleeds to death. Only Seth, Jacob, Kate, Scott, a biker named Sex Machine (Tom Savini) and Frost (Fred Williamson), a Vietnam War veteran, survive the attack. They quickly establish that despite their reservations about believing in vampires, they have to accept the reality at hand in order to live through the night. Seth also convinces the group that Jacob is their best weapon, but only if he rediscovers his faith and confidence enough to become a preacher again. The slain patrons — including Richie — then come back to life as vampires, forcing Seth to kill his own brother. Afterwards the group set about killing the vamped patrons.

During this second struggle, one of the vampires bites Sex Machine in the arm. Subsequently, Sex Machine changes into a vampire and bites Frost and Jacob before Frost throws Sex Machine through a window which allows an army of vampires to enter as bats from the outside. Seth and the Fullers desperately escape to a back storeroom and fashion anti-vampire weapons from items found therein, including a pneumatic drill, crossbow, shotgun and holy water (which requires Jacob to recover his faith to bless it). Jacob, knowing he will soon turn into a vampire as well, makes a reluctant Scott and Kate promise to kill him when he changes.

The four then make their final assault on the undead. During the battle, both Sex Machine and Frost attack but Kate kills Sex Machine and Jacob kills Frost. Jacob changes, but Scott hesitates to dispatch his father, allowing Jacob to bite Scott. Scott then hits Jacob with holy water and shoots him. Scott is then captured by several vampires who begin to devour him. Begging for death, Scott is shot by Kate. Only Seth and Kate are alive, surrounded by vampires. Just as they contemplate suicide, streams of sunlight shine through new holes in the walls, making the vampires back away. Dawn has come, and Carlos is trying to shoot his way in. On Seth’s call, Carlos’ bodyguards blast open the door, letting in full sunlight and killing every vampire inside, aided in part by the disco ball in the center of the room. Carlos admits that he had never entered the club, but that he had thought it looked like “a fun place.”

Kate asks Seth if she can go with him to El Ray, but he declines, saying, “I may be a bastard, but I’m not a fucking bastard.” She (in the RV) and Seth (with Carlos) go their separate ways after Seth gives Kate some cash. As they leave, the camera pans back to reveal that the “Titty Twister” was actually the top of a partially buried ancient Aztec temple, presumably the home of vampires for centuries, and that hundreds of trucks and bikes have been toppled down the side of the cliff.

REVIEW:

I remember the first time I watched this film. I w as sitting in my dorm room during summer school working on some homework and flipping through channels when I came across the preview for this, so I sat and watched it…then got back to my homework.

George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino play a couple of thieving brothers trying to cross the border to escape the cops. We all know what Clooney can do. Love him or hate, he does have some acting talent. As a matter of fact, he may have a bit too much for this film, then I remember when this came out, and he was still working his way from the halls of ER. Tarantino, on the other hand, occasionally will do a small part in his films, but never a major starring role like this, even if he does die halfway through.

The magically delicious Salma Hayek has the most memorable moment in this entire picture. Of course, I’m speaking of her snake dance and subsequent teasing of Quentin Tarantino where she pours beer down her leg and into his mouth. I’m not one for foot fetishes or anything like that, but that was hot!

As with any vampire film, there has to be a group of victims/heroes that a re reluctant to aid. From Dusk Till Dawn is no exception. The help comes in the form of a pastor with issues and his family and a group of bikers ad truck drivers that was drinking at the bar.

Watching this, you’d expect to see some major vampire show up after all the killing starts, but that never happens. These are just vampires that seemed to be trapped in a bar in Mexico. Now, if Salma Hayek’s character is the leader, as it is believed, she sure died easily and early. I’m just saying, if she is indeed their leader, you’d think she would have been better protected and have lasted longer. Maybe that’s just me.

A few critics have criticized the final fight scenes as being mindless action that just gets gory and lacks dialogue. I disagree. First of all, who says there needs to be dialogue when you’re trying to stay alive in the face of a bar full of vampire with no visible way escape. As far as the gore goes, well, anyone that knows vampire lore, knows that driving a stake through their heart is the best way to kill them. Only way to show this is to make it gory. Sure, they could have done it without the blood, but this isn’t a PG-13 picture.

Don’t waste your time with the sequel and prequel to this. There is good reason they went straight to DVD, but this one is worth a watch. It has everything you could want, action, gore, vampires, criminals, dramatic tension, Salma Hayek in perhaps her sexiest role. What more could you want?

4 out of 5 stars

A Christmas Carol

Posted in Classics, Drama, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on December 14, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In the Victorian period, Ebenezer Scrooge is a cynical and embittered old man whose greatest concern is money, and who regards compassion as a luxury he cannot afford. On Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of Jacob Marley, his former business partner, who arranges for Scrooge to be visited by three spirits in an attempt to show him the errors of his ways — the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come. The spirits force Scrooge to examine the failings of his own life, as well as the bravery and optimism of his loyal but ill-treated employee Bob Cratchit. Scrooge reforms, learning to keep the spirit of Christmas alive in his heart, ultimately becoming a well-loved and respected man.

REVIEW:

The first A Christmas Carol that I saw was Mickey’s Christmas Carol. I don’t need to tell you the culture shock I endured when I went from that version to this one. While they are two radically different takes on the classic tale, the story and message are still the same.

Ebenezer Scrooge is portrayed by the immortal George C. Scott, who not long before this film was released had brought General Patton to life in Patton. Scott is perfect as Scrooge, what with his gruff demeanor and gravelly, raspy voice that I just assumed Scrooge would have. When playing a character as emotionally complex…or devoid of emotions, if you will…as SCrooge, ti takes a competent actor, and Scott fits the bill. On top of that, he has the chops to carry the film as the leading man.

Marley’s ghost scared me as a little boy when I first saw him. Imagine seeing this apparition walking into this rickety old house and then sit there without blinking and lets out a blood curdling scream. It freaked me out, let me tell ya! The actor that plays him had some major discipline in order to sit there and not blink. Remember, this is from 1984, way before CGI.

Another quite intimidating moment, was the ghost of Christmas yet-to-come. I’m not sure he was scary per se, as he just looked like a black cloak with an arm from a skeleton, but the music they played when he was on-screen just set the mood.

Tiny Tim is just precious, and the supporting cast, while not made of big name actors, is quite capable of…well…supporting the film.

I applaud the producers for chosing mostly British actors for this film. It brought more of a realistic feel to it, rather than having to endure people in old London sounding like they’re from the ghettos of Boston or New York City.

Other than Mickey’s Christmas Carol, this has got to most televised version of the Dickens classic. I like to refer to it as the gold standard by which all version should be measured up to. Including the newest incarnation of A Christmas Carol, none have quite been able to measure up. That just goes to show how well made this is. To top that off, this was only a television movie! Come Christmas time, there certain movies/specials that it just wouldn’t be the holidays without seeing, A Christmas Carol is one of them.

5 out of 5 stars

In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 13, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Set in the kingdom of Ehb, the story follows a man called Farmer (Jason Statham), who was adopted by his village. When Farmer’s wife, Solana (Claire Forlani)and his son leave to sell vegetables at the town of Stonebridge, Farmer’s farm is attacked by creatures called Krug. With the help of his friend and neighbor Norrick (Ron Perlman) he travels to Stonebridge; however, the Krug kill his son and capture his wife. With the help of Norrick and Bastian (Will Sanderson), Farmer’s brother-in-law, he intends to find and rescue his wife.

The Krug are being controlled by the wizard Gallian (Ray Liotta) who is amassing an army to overthrow King Konreid (Burt Reynolds), with the assistance of the King’s nephew Fallow (Matthew Lillard).

REVIEW:

When it comes to pictures in this genre, I tend to like, but not love them. Part of my indecisiveness about them stems from my disdain for this period of time, but at the same time, I find this era interesting. When this flick was recommended, I was hesitant at first, because I thought it would straight up and down suck. Then I remembered how many films I’ve said that about and have been supremely wrong about.

Now, this is not one of those pictures that is loaded with dragons and other sci-fi special effects normally associated with this period of time, which is really a shame. It was supremely missing.

This film is not all that bad, honestly, but ti does drag on, even during the fight scenes, and doesn’t seem to move forward, and when it does, the audience is so out of it, that they don’t care anymore.

The cast of this film is one of those top-notch, all star ensembles. Names like Jason Statham, John Rhys-Davies, Claire Forlani, Burt Reynolds, etc. With these actors, you’d expect they’d have been able to deliver no matter how bad the script and story were, but that is not the case. They seem to struggle through this material as if they were walking through quicksand. As a mater of fact, it is like they were coached by Paris Hilton or Megan Fox in acting for this film. It really is disappointing.

Acting aside, the fight scenes are epic. Any action fan will enjoy, but not love them. There is no wow factor. It is just a bunch of guys with swords clanging and an occasional special effect when one of Gallian’s clone Krug things is killed. It just wasn’t worth the effort. To make matters worse, the big fight scene before the king dies takes up a good 5-10 minutes. After which, you feel as if the film is ending, and headed toward a sequel, then it switches to what feels like tacked on extra 10-20 minutes.

I really wanted to like this picture, but I just can’t muster up anything more than some below average feelings for it. There are so many things that it had going for it, but fell short in every direction. No one in their right mind would recommend this, that includes myself, but if you’re a fan of Jason Statham, or these fantasy films, or maybe you are a fan of the RPG game this was based on (which I didn’t find out about until this morning), then go ahead, but otherwise, you won’t miss much if you don’t watch. Use that 2 hrs and 7 min for something else.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

The Proposal

Posted in Chick Flicks, Comedy, Movie Reviews, Romantic with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 12, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Margaret Tate (Sandra Bullock) is the executive editor-in-chief of a book publishing company, Colden Books. All of her workers, including her assistant Andrew Paxton (Ryan Reynolds), strongly dislike her for her bossy, cold demeanor. She fires a senior editor, Bob Spaulding (Aasif Mandvi) because he is unable to get an author named Frank interviewed by Oprah. After learning she is being deported to Canada, she forces Andrew to marry her, as his future is tied to hers. When the government investigates, Mr. Gilbertson (Denis O’Hare) informs them that they will undergo rigorous testing to prove that the marriage is not fraudulent, after being notified by Bob Spaulding that this marriage might be a sham. Andrew grudgingly accepts the proposition of marrying Margaret, under the condition that he is promoted to the position of editor and his manuscript be published. He also forces Margaret to propose nicely to him on her knees in the streets of New York, and to allow him to tell his parents they are getting married.

The two spend the weekend with his parents in Sitka, Alaska in order to sell the lie, where they will be attending the 90th birthday party of Andrew’s grandmother (Gammy) (Betty White). Margaret is very unreceptive of Alaska, and is furthermore shocked to learn that Andrew’s family owns most of the business in Sitka. They attend a surprise party for them, where Andrew catches up with his ex-girlfriend, Gertrude “Gert” (Malin Akerman). After he is humiliated by his father, Joe Paxton (Craig T. Nelson), Andrew announces that he and Margaret are getting married. They are forced to kiss, and do so passionately, showing the first signs of respect for one another. Andrew’s parents then show them their room, and Gammy gives them a special blanket (called baby-maker, which they avoid). Andrew and Margaret sleep separately – Andrew on the floor and Margaret in the bed.

The next morning, Margaret wakes to hear her phone ringing. After waking Andrew with her loud conversation, she goes outside to continue the conversation with Frank; however, the family dog, Kevin (a Samoyed puppy), follows her out of the house and is swooped up by an eagle. She gets Kevin back, but the eagle instead snatches her phone away. Andrew, after seeing the commotion, informs her that his mother Grace, herself and Gammy are going shopping and sightseeing; the shopping actually proves to be a trip to a male strip show by Ramone (Oscar Nunez).

Margaret talks with Gert about Andrew, who tells her that they dated through college, and when Andrew asked her to elope with him, she didn’t want to leave her home, and said no.

Meanwhile, Andrew confronts his father after he apologizes and asks him to take up the family business, telling him he’s happy in New York. Margaret comes home and see Andrew venting his anger (after the conversation between him and his Father) by hitting an old wooden canoe agitatedly. She takes a shower, but finds no towels in the bathroom; when she tries to get one from the open wardrobe, she is stopped by Kevin. Andrew goes to the balcony of their room, stripping naked, to take a bath. Margaret, also naked, goes for a towel after distracting Kevin, only to bump into Andrew after slipping while shutting the door close so that Kevin would not escape from the bathroom. He sees her tattoo on her back before going to take a shower. That night, Andrew and Margaret reveal to each other a little about their past, and find out they like the same band. It was revealed here that Margaret was an orphan, and had no siblings.

Next morning, Joe and Grace knock at the door with breakfast. Andrew and Margaret hurriedly get into bed together, and the family suggest they could marry the same weekend, and they reluctantly accept. Andrew is stressed because the marriage is actually a sham, and Margaret tries to comfort and convince him, finding herself genuinely caring for him. To sort out her emotions, she goes for a bike ride into the woods, where she finds Gammy “giving thanks” in a ritual. Gammy invites her to join her, and they end up dancing to “Get Low”, while Andrew watches.

Andrew takes her into Sitka to get Margaret’s new phone, and she tries to contact New York. However, Gammy and Grace arrive and take Margaret to be fitted into a dress that Gammy’s great grandmother made, and a necklace that’s been in the Paxton family for generations. Margaret, who was now very touched, decided that she can’t do this to Andrew, and she hijacks a boat and tries to explain, but she falls off after he takes the steering wheel (and she cannot swim and almost drowns, but manage to cling onto a floating buoy). Andrew goes back for her, and they return to his house. Once there, they find out Mr. Gilbertson has arrived to check on the couple, after Joe suspected that the marriage was a scam, and that Joe had came down to a deal with Mr. Gilbertson, who persuades them to admit the sham. Andrew vehemently denies and rushes out.

During the wedding ceremony, Margaret decides she cannot do this to Andrew and confesses the business arrangement in front of everyone – including Mr. Gilbertson - who informs her she has twenty four hours to get back to Canada. She returns to New York to pack her things. Andrew rushes to their room only to find she has already left leaving his manuscript with a note of praise from her on the bed. As he rushes out of the house to confront Margaret, another argument arises between Joe and Andrew. Gammy has a heart attack while trying to stop them and while being airlifted to the hospital. She convinces Joe and Andrew to quit arguing before she “passes away”. Once they agree, Gammy reveals she had faked it, just so they would stop fighting and try to make it to the plane, to stop Margaret from going back to New York. Andrew attempts to stop Margaret’s flight, but cannot do so in time. However, Andrew rushes to New York and shows up at the office before he confesses his love for Margaret in front of the entire office staff, proposing marriage all over again as he “wants to date Margaret”. They go to Mr. Gilbertson once more to get engaged, this time “for real”.

During the end credits, everyone including Andrew’s family and Ramone is being interviewed by Mr. Gilbertson. And it’s hinted that Ramone is not a citizen, while Kevin, the dog, still has not gotten used to Margaret’s presence.

REVIEW:

I’ll admit that I thought this was going to be another sappy, romantic comedy and chick flick. At least that’s the way the trailers made it seem. However, that was not the case, as The Proposal surprised me with its heavy doses of comedy. Then again, Sandra Bullock romantic comedies tend to be heavier on the comedy than the romance angle.

The plot is actually a bit different from the normal boy meets girl, they go through the usual stuff, including a rough patch, then hook up at the end. This time we get a hard boiled boss anda guy executive assistant. Bullock’s character is about to be deported to Canada (of all places), and in a desperate attempt to stay in the country (and keep her job) she feigns an engagement to Reynolds. This leads to all sorts of lies and deceit including a trip to Alaska to meet his family. Of course, there is that little rough patch that all rom-coms go through, but in the end every thing works out. If only life were that simple.

Sandra Bullock is not necessarily known for being the evil type. Most of her characters are the vulnerable ones, so this is a bit of a departure for her. It does work for her, sort of. As top notch of a performance this is for her, I still had a hard time believing she could be the cold, uncaring boss lady she portrays. Still, there are glimpses of the Bullock we all know and love while they are in Alaska. On a side note, you don’t normally think of Sandra Bullock as having a good body, but her nude scene (you don’t see anything) with Ryan Reynolds had me impressed, especially when ou consider that she’s nearing 50 and has a bod like that.

Ryan Reynolds is his usual charming self in this film. The best parts of his performance are when he is going head to head with either Sandra Bullock or Craig T. Nelson. He may be known more for his action roles these days, even if he did start out as a comic actor, but romantic moves like this work to his credit as well.

Betty White steals the show as the grandmother, “Gammy”. In typical Betty White fashion, she is a mixture of innocent humor and shocking at the same time. Craig T. Nelson is very forceful and at times despicable as the father, while Mary Steenburgen is the polar opposite ans is extremely loving and caring.

This is a surprisingly cute film that never gets too serious, even when it hits that conflict section. As any avid reader of this blog will know, I’m no fan of excessively serious or dark movies, so for this one to keep the light tone was a welcome breath of fresh air. The actors really seemed to enjoy this film and it is no surprise that it as successful as it was.

Even if you’re not a fan of romantic comedies, this is one you’ll enjoy. On top of being a good story, there a re funny moments, dramatic moments, and women get a naked Ryan Reynolds, and guys get a naked Sandra Bullock. No, this isn’t the world’s greatest movie, but it does do what movies should do, and that is entertain.

4 out of 5 stars

Bruno

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , on December 12, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The film opens with the song Nessaja to a modified Universal Studios logo with an umlaut above the letter U. The main characterGay Austrian fashion reporter Brüno, is introduced. He is fired from TV reporting after disrupting a Milan Fashion week catwalk, and his lover Diesel (Clifford Bañagale) leaves him for another man. Accompanied by his assistant’s assistant Lutz (Gustaf Hammarsten), he travels to the United States to become “the biggest Austrian superstar since Hitler”.

Brüno unsuccessfully attempts an acting career as an extra on NBC’s Medium. He then produces a celebrity interview pilot, showing him dancing erotically, criticizing Jamie-Lynn Spears’ fetus with reality TV star Brittny Gastineau, unsuccessfully stalking and attempting to “interview” actor Harrison Ford, and closing with a close-up penis being swung around. A focus group audience who were shown the pilot dislike the show, stating the program was “worse than cancer”. Other advice suggested creating a sex tape, so Brüno arranges an interview with Ron Paul (unwittingly “played” by himself) whom Brüno mistakes for drag queen RuPaul. While waiting in a hotel bed room for a staged technical problem to be fixed, Brüno hits on Paul, who leaves angrily and calls him “queer as blazes”.

Brüno consults a spiritualist (Gary Williams) to contact the deceased Rob Pilatus of Milli Vanilli for advice, only to perform homosexual mime sex acts on the invisible Pilatus. He consults charity PR consultants Nicole and Suzanne DeFosset to select a world problem to maximize his fame, choosing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He flies to Jerusalem to interview former Mossad agent Yossi Alpher and Palestinian politician Ghassan Khatib and confuses hummus and Hamas. In another interview with Israeli and Palestinian professors he sings his own “Dove of Peace” while forcing the two to caress each other’s hands. He also meets with Ayman Abu Aita, subtitled as “terrorist group leader, Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades” in a location described as a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon (actually a hotel restaurant near Bethlehem), where he hopes to be kidnapped. Brüno insults Abu Aita’s hair then suggests that “King Osama” looks like a dirty wizard or a homeless Santa Claus. Abu Aita’s translator orders Brüno to leave immediately.

Brüno interviews parents of child models, asking them if their children would be ready to lose a lot of weight, undergo liposuction, be near “antiquated heavy machinery” or “amateur science”, or be dressed in Nazi uniforms. Later on a TV talk show hosted by Richard Bey, he shows the African American audience a black baby named O.J., whom he acquired in Africa by “swapping him” for a U2 Product Red iPod. He shows photographs of the boy covered with bees, on a crucifix, and in a jacuzzi next to adults in a 69 position. The audience is appalled and social services take the baby away from Brüno, driving him to depression, later found at a diner gorging on high-carb junk food committing “carbicide”. Lutz carries him back to a hotel room. After a night of sex, they awake to find they are trapped in a bondage mechanism, unable to find the key. They call a hotel engineer for help, and are asked to leave. After accosting a group of protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church while still in bondage gear and boarding a bus, Brüno and Lutz finally remove their equipment at a police station. Lutz says he loves Brüno but Brüno tells him he does not love him, having been influenced by “carb goggles” and so Lutz leaves Brüno.

After realizing that the biggest names in Hollywood are straight (citing Tom Cruise, Kevin Spacey and John Travolta), Brüno consults two Christian gay converters to help him become heterosexual. He attempts “straight” activities, such as joining the National Guard, going hunting in Alabama, learning taekwondo, and attending a swingers party at which he is whipped by a dominatrix (Michelle McLaren). Each of these attempts end miserably due to Bruno’s failure to keep his gay traits hidden, but he vows that he will become straight.

Eight months later, a now-heterosexual Brüno, under the alias “Straight Dave”, hosts a cage-fight match, Straight Dave’s Man Slammin’ Maxout in Arkansas. Lutz appears at the event and calls Brüno a faggot. The two fight, only to rekindle their love, making out and stripping in front of the aghast spectators who throw objects into the cage, among them plastic cups and a metal folding chair. The clip gets International press, so the now-famous Brüno attempts to marry Lutz and gets O.J. back in exchange for a MacBook Pro. Brüno records a charity song, “Dove of Peace”, featuring Bono, Elton John, Chris Martin, Snoop Dogg, Sting and Slash.

REVIEW:

Last Sacha Boren Cohen film I saw was Borat. The problem I had with that one was that it  was that it just didn’t captivate me or seem to be that funny. Yet, people were raving about it and saying Cohen was a genius for totally immersing himself in the character.  He does the same with Bruno, but this picture just seems funnier. That may be because of the shock value more than it being better or worse, but the fact still remains.

There really isn’t much to say about this film. Bruno runs around being the stereotypical flamboyant gay Austrian, complete with dildos and tight shorts. He goes through a series of silly scenarios, that are hilarious, but seem a bit staged, which takes away a bit the experience. I wish there was more of a plot to this picture, though. It just seemed to be a series of pointless escapades by a crazy man.

Bruno is quite the interesting little picture, let me tell you. For some of the more conservative and squeamish, you’d do best staying away. Trust me, this is not the picture for you. All that is going to happen is that you’ll see a bunch of stuff that will anger and/or offend you, rather than make you laugh. This will just mean you’ll lash out at normal people who actually find this film funny. The funniest parts about this picture are the ones that aren’t staged. Having said that, this is the second of Baron Coehn’s films that he has done in this mockumentary style. He’s obviously talented, but maybe, just maybe, its time for him to find a new schtick. While he’s out doing that, sit back and enjoy this film. Sure, it won’t win any awards, but it is hilarious.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

The Princess and the Frog

Posted in Animation, Comedy, Disney, Family, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 12, 2009 by Mystery Man

 

PLOT:

The movie opens with the evening star twinkling above New Orleans. A young Tiana and Charlotte La Bouff are listening to the story of The Frog Prince as told by Tiana’s mother. Charlotte is thrilled with the idea of finding a prince, while Tiana vows she will never need to. Instead she shares a dream with her father: to open a restaurant of their own.

Years pass and Tiana is now working as a waitress, skimping and saving, and seems to have let go of having fun in favor of her dream, as her father has now passed on. She finally makes the money and shows the plans for her restaurant to her mother, who insists that she needs to look at other parts of life and that even though her father never got what he wanted, he had what he needed: love.

Meanwhile, Prince Naveen arrives in the city with his butler Lawrence. The prince has been cut off by his parents for his play-boy lifestyle and either has to marry or get a job to support himself. He plans to wed Charlotte to gain her fortune. The two soon meet up with Dr. Facilier, who turns Naveen into a frog and gets Lawrence to join him in his plot to rule New Orleans.

At the La Bouff grand ball, Tiana learns that another client put down an offer on the building she wanted for her restaurant, and is now left with nothing unless she can top him by Wednesday. Having given up hope, she desperately wishes on a star, when frog Naveen appears. Thinking her a princess, he convinces her to kiss him, but the spell backfires and she becomes a frog as well.

The two are chased out as Lawrence uses a voodoo charm to impersonate the prince and win the heart of Charlotte. It requires Naveen’s blood however, so Facilier sends out his voodoo spirits to retrieve the prince, who has escaped to the bayou with Tiana. He plans to get Charlotte’s money, kill her father Big Daddy La Bouff, and take over New Orleans, feeding the souls of the citizens to his voodoo friends.

In the bayou, Tiana and Naveen encounter Louis, an alligator who wants to be a jazz musician, and Ray, a Cajun firefly who is in love with a star he has named Evangeline. They take them to see Mama Odie, the good voodoo priestess of the swamp. Along the way, Naveen falls in love with Tiana. They eventually reach Mama Odie, who insists they need to dig deeper to get what they want. Naveen realizes this means being with Tiana.

Mama Odie reveals that for the two to become human, Naveen must kiss Charlotte, who is the Mardi Gras Princess. Naveen plans on proposing to Tiana, but she shows more interest in her dream than in him and he thinks she doesn’t reciporate his feelings. He decides to marry Charlotte and give Tiana her money so Tiana can open her restaurant. However, he is kidnapped by the voodoo spirits, and as they search for him Ray reveals to Tiana that Naveen truly loves her.

Tiana rushes to the Mardi Gras parade to find Lawrence marrying Charlotte in the Naveen disguise, having re-fueled the voodoo charm. Broken hearted, she runs to the graveyard and tells Ray that Evangeline is just as star and he will never actually meet her. Ray rushes off and manages to free the real Prince Naveen and steal the charm, causing Lawrence to resume true form and become arrested. He gives it to Tiana just before Facilier crushes him.

Facilier offers Tiana her restaurant, as well as her human form back, but Tiana realizes that love and following your heart is more important than taking the easy way, like her mother had said. She shatters Facilier’s charm, releasing the voodoo spirits from within who proceed to drag a screaming Facilier into their world for failing them. Naveen offers Charlotte marriage, but Tiana confesses she’d rather have him as a frog than have her restaurant because she is in love with him. Charlotte offers to kiss him so he can marry Tiana, but it is too late. Mardi Gras is over and she is no longer a princess.

Louis finds Ray and rushes him to the pair. He gets to see them together and happy before he dies from his injuries. At Ray’s funeral, they look up and see that another star has appeared next to Evangeline.

Naveen and Tiana are married in the bayou by Mama Odie. Their kiss turns them back into humans because Tiana is now a princess married to royalty. The two go back home and get back the building by having Louis threaten the real estate agents. They work together and open Tiana’s restaurant, where Louis plays trumpet in his band. The movie ends with them kissing as the evening star, Evangeline, twinkles from above.

REVIEW:

Remember the days when movies were hand drawn and in 2D? Well, if The Princess and th Frog is any indication, they may be coming back. I’ll admit, I’m a Disney freak, and have been looking forward to this film longer than just about any movie in my life, including both Transformers. After watching this afternoon, I can say with pride that it did not disappoint.

Let’s get one thing out of the way first. Tiana, is Disney’s first African-American princess. However, as you watch the movie, you don’t even notice, and why should you? Aside from the culture difference between her and her best friend, Charlotte, who appears to be the richest girl in New Orlans, you don’t even notice it. Such a shame that people are making such a big deal about the race of the newest princess, especially since they didn’t make a big deal about Ariel being the first redhead, or Mulan being the first Asian, or Aladdin being the first human male to get his own picture.

When you make a picture set in New Orleans, no matter what the genre, you must have jazz and food in it, and those are exactly two of the biggest driving forces in this picture, aside from the voodoo (another key New Orleans draw) and story. Set in the 1920s, the city sets the perfect backdrop for this story, and the animators and storyboarders captured the city to near perfection (it was a little clean for my taste, even for those days).

Tiana…what can I say about her. I’ve touched on her in previous entires, Defending the Disney Princesses and Who Should be a Princess, and now she has her time to shine.In the lexicon of Disney heroines, in years to come she will be remembered up there with the greatest. She works two jobs to scrimp and save in order to buy her own restaurant, something her father and she dreamed of. It is never said what happened to her father, but it appears he may have dies in WWI. Although this is her movie, she doesn’t hog the spotlight, just as her fellow princesses didn’t. I have to wonder when she was cast, if she sought out advice from the likes of Ariel, Snow White, Jasmine, Belle, etc. Speaking of Belle, she bears a slight resemblance to her and the actress who gives her a voice, Anika Noni Rose. Anika’s vocals do this character justice, but it is her singing that really sets her apart. While not the strongest in the world, they are solid. For goodness sakes, Tiana isn’t an opera or Broadway star. Rose allegedly beat out the likes of Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, and Jennifer Hudson, for the role. I think she was a perfect choice.

Prince Naveen…this guy comes off as your typical cocky prince when we first meet him. He’s carefree, but when you have no money and have been cut off, you have to find some way to get that out of your head, right. Naveen falls prey to the Shadow man,and spends the majority of the film trying to decide what it is he wants, true happiness or love…not to mention the constant berating be Tiana he endures. I’m not exactly sure where this country he’s from, is, but his accent leads me to belive it’s somewhere near France or Spain, but I can’t pinpoint it. In terms of looks, he reminds me of Eric from The Little Mermaid, only with more, for lack of a better term, ethnic features.

Dr. Facilier…another in a great line of tremendous Disney villains, which include Jafar, the Wicked Queen, Ursala, Scar, the Horned King, Cruella de Ville, and Maleficent. When you talk about giving this guy a voice, no one is better than Keith David. This guy’s rumbling baritone vocals really resonated with the character and were downright creepy at times. I didn’t quite understand what is deal was with this “friends from the other side”, but that’s just one of those mysteries that may have been uncovered in the book, or is best left unknown. What I do know is that this guy’s song steals the show. It is such a shame he isn’t more in the film. Also, I do believe he is the first villain to no have some sort of sidekick. Even Maleficent and the Wicked Queen had crows. All he has is his shadow.

Mama Odie…I guess you can say she is the equivalent to the fairy godmother in the picture. Like Facilier, her song steals the show, and she also uses voodoo, but at least she doesn’t owe a debt to mysterious voodoo masks. This blind woman uses a pet snake as a walking stick, and like Cinderella’s fairy godmother, is a bit…shall we say…out there. It works for her, though, and makes for quite the enjoyable character.

Ray and Louis are the token sidekicks. Ray being a firefly they meet in the bayou (that’s a swamp for you non southern/Louisiana readers), and Louis is an alligator who years to play his trumpet for people. I don’t think I need to tell you who Louis is named after, do I? Both characters are there to add comic relief, but Ray, I have to say, does a better job. I warn you now, there is a moment of sadness near the end, involving one of these characters.

Charlotte, Tiana’s best friend, is a spoiled rich girl, who you just know she would want to keep the prince all to herself, but in a break from the norm, she actually is as nice (and airheaded) as can be. Bi Daddy LeBeouf and Tiana’s parents are some of the most caring people I’ve ever seen on film.

This film isn’t all rave review from me. The drawing seemed a bit off, as if they had either gotten artists straight out of high school or were rusty. I’ll chalk it up to the latter, since Disney has been obsessed with computer animation since Home on the Range. The beginning of the picture, where we meet Tiana seems to drag on. I mean we get the pciture…thisi s Tiana and Charlotte and New Orleans, blah, blah, blah, get on with it. Also, when Tiana first becomes a frog and she and Naveen are escaping the party, Charlotte’s dog apparently speaks to her, giving the audience the impression that the animals can hear her, but this is never touched on or talked about again. I’d say that this is how they hear Louis and RAy, except that the humans Louis plays with on the steamboat (they think he’s in a Mardi Gras costume) can hear him just fine. I guess that’s one of those mysteries like who all can hear Stewie from Family Guy.

I am so glad Disney decided to not only go back to 2D, but bring back the musicals. If they were smart, they go back and look at their most successful animated pictures (not counting the Pixar films), these would be the ones that are musicals, yet for some reason they abandoned the concept and eventually gave up on hand drawn animation. Often times musicals will leave you with songs that are just ho-hum and you won’t remember then 5 minutes after they’re done, let alone be singing them after the film is over, but this one had my toe tapping all the way through. Trust me, I will be adding this music to my collection. Randy Newman did an excellent job, and Ne-Yo’s song during the end credits just was the cherry on top.

As I was sitting in the theater, I was surprised at how excited everyone was to see this. Aside from your typical summer blockbuster, I have to say I have not seen a theater so packed. It was almost standing room only, and I went during the day!

Oh, one more thing, Tiana’s dream sequence…the animators captures that 20s style of art. It reminded me of the “RHapsody in Blue” segment from Fantasia 2000, and was just as good!

Disney has recaptured the magic with this one. No, it’s not as good as some others, but it is a major step in the right direction. Tiana hopefully won’t get mired down in controversy, as is sure to come her way from people who just want to be haters. This is a beautiful picture, and most importantly, is didn’t const $2.50 extra for what accounts to renting a pair of sunglasses to watch! I love this movie and even if I wasn’t a collector of Disney animated pictures, it still would be going in the collection. Let the countdown begin for the DVD! In the meantime, you should go see it, preferably more than once. Yes, it is that good!

5 out of 5 stars

Ice Age 2: The Meltdown

Posted in Animation, Comedy, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 9, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In the opening scene, Scrat, the saber-toothed squirrel climbs a glacier but accidentally opens a hole in it. The world of ice is slowly melting. The creatures of the Ice Age are all shown enjoying themselves on slides and pools made by the melting ice; among them the three protagonists of the first film: Manfred, Sid, and Diego. Sid opens a day camp, where none of the younger creatures take him seriously, nor do Manfred and Diego, which leaves Sid seeking a daring deed. Fast Tony, a local con artist is claiming that the earth will flood and that the bark and reeds which he sells are needed to stay alive. Manfred dismisses the idea, but is distracted when he sees that Sid will try to high dive from a giant waterfall; as Manfred goes with Diego to the top of the waterfall to save Sid from his act of daredevilry, they see that the pleasant weather caused the ice of the valley to melt, and it is kept from destroying the valley only by the glaciers, which have formed a dam. A turkey vulture tells the animals that a giant tree can act as a boat and save them; all soon set out to find it. As the animals begin their journey, Sid sings three songs to tease Manny about Mammoths being “extinct”.During the time that the masses of animals escape, a glacier which contains two sea reptiles from the Mesozoic era, Cretaceous and Maelstrom, breaks off.

Diego and Sid encounter two mischevious opossums named Crash and Eddie who drive them nuts. Manfred is teased about being the last mammoth alive, but meets Ellie, a female mammoth who believes she is an opossum and the sister of Crash and Eddie. Sid invites her to tag along with the group to escape the flood, and she brings her brothers. After a perilous ordeal with Cretaceous and Maelstrom, Sid finds out that Diego is afraid of water, prompting him to encourage Diego to admit and face his fears – Diego insists “Fear is for prey”, so Sid points out that Diego is behaving as if he is water’s prey. They discover an area which Ellie recalls as the place where she was adopted. She finally realizes she is a mammoth but distances herself from Manny when he suggests “saving their species”. Ellie and Manny ultimately make up when they must co-operate to save the group when the ground cracks under their feet. Sid is kidnapped by a tribe of mini-sloths who believe Sid to be a god. Sid lights a fire for them, and believes that he has finally found respect, but they plan to sacrifice him to a volcano. Sid escapes. The next morning Sid tells the others his experience but none are convinced. They find a field of hot geysers, which separate Manfred, Sid, and Diego from Ellie and her brothers.

When the flood comes, Manfred saves Ellie from drowning as she is caught in a cave (due to falling rocks), while Diego overcomes his fear of water to save Sid. Cretaceous and Maelstrom arrive, but due to Manfred’s quick thinking, they are finished off by a rock which falls on them, killing them both. The other animals are at the mercy of the water currents. Meanwhile, Scrat climbs up the glacier and at the top sticks the acorn he has into the ice. This forms a crack in the glacier, which widens into a fissure, diverting the flood and saving the animals. Scrat is then washed away. In the final scene, a herd of mammoths shows up, but Manny and Ellie decide to remain together anyway, taking Sid, Diego, and the opossum brothers along. Sid encounters the mini-sloths again – they believe Sid stopped the flood and invite him to be their leader. Diego, surprised to see the mini-sloths are real, convinces Sid to stay with the others, reluctantly admitting that Sid is a vital part of their ‘herd’. The epilogue shows Scrat having a near death experience after falling into the fissure. He enters a heaven full of acorns. Suddenly, he finds himself torn away. He unhappily wakes up, having been resuscitated by Sid.

REVIEW:

Many people were torn on whether or not there should even be a sequel to the popular Ice Age. Depending on which side of the spectrum you’re on, you could think that this was made for no other reason that to make a few bucks (something many movies seem to be made exclusively for these days) or you could think that having the further adventures of this makeshift herd would be interesting. I tend to fall in between both camps, but lean more toward the latter with this one.

I have to admit, as I was watching this tonight, I sort of dozed off. Not because of boredom, but from lack of sleep the past few night. As such, I missed bits and pieces here and there. However, even with my nodding, I was still able to follow the story and stay entertained. That is a major plus in my book.

Having said that, I didn’t too much care for the story. To me, it seemed as if in the previous film they introduced us to Manny, Diego, and Sid, and in this one they decided to add new characters for the sake of adding them. I hate it when this is done. I will say, though, that Ellie is a welcome addition, but I think she and her brothers work as one time characters, or they should be on their own like Scrat usually is. That’s just my opinion, though.

The animation is beautifully done and s obviously a step above its predecessor. Amazing what a little time and money can do for your work with CG. I’m still not a fan of the medium, but I do acknowledge when something is done well.

Wish I could give a better review for you, but as I said, I dozed off during the film, but from what I saw, this is a nice film for the entire family. How many movies can you say that about these days? It is for sure worth at least one viewing, so check it out.

4 out of 5 stars

Alice

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 7, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Wonderland is an outlandish city of twisted towers and casinos built out of playing cards, all under the rule of the Queen of Hearts (Kathy Bates). The White Rabbit is a secret organization that works for the Queen of Hearts and abducts people from the real world, so they can gamble in the Queen’s casino. Once people are kidnapped, they are referred to as “oysters,” and play in the casino so their emotions can be drained by the Queen. These drained emotions serve as the currency of Wonderland. The Queen keeps people under control by sedating them with elixirs that provide an instant fix of emotions as a way to pacify them when they become too unruly.

Alice Hamilton (Caterina Scorsone), a woman in her twenties who lives with her mother, finds herself in Wonderland after the man she loves is kidnapped by the White Rabbit. However, the Queen is not very happy about Alice’s arrival. In the course of her adventure, Alice enlists the help of an array of characters including the resistance fighter Hatter (Andrew-Lee Potts), resistance leader Dodo (Tim Curry) and the White Knight (Matt Frewer. Unlike the Alice in Carroll’s original stories, this characterization of Alice is a modern, assertive woman, and to illustrate that this is a somewhat different character, she is a martial arts instructor and is portrayed with dark rather than blond hair.

REVIEW:

Sci-Fy…er…Syfy channel had a huge hit a couple of years ago with their reimagining of The Wizard of Oz with Tin Man. With Alice, they try to recapture that magic as they reimagined Alice in Wonderland.

The big problem here has to be Syfy’s ego. They assumed that just because Tin Man was a hit, that Alice will follow suit. This not the case, because for one thing, this story just doesn’t capture the attention and plods along at an inconsistent pace. Not to take anything away from Kathy Bates and Tim Curry, but Alice doesn’t have any star power. Tin Man had Zooey Deschanel, Alan Cummings, and Richard Dreyfuss, in major roles. Kathy Bates is the Queen of Hearts, but this wasn’t her movie.

I don’t want to make it sound as if the actors here aren’t capable. Caterina Scorscone, who plays, Alice, isn’t half bad, although her performance did leave lots ot be desired. She seemed a bit devoid of genuine emotions for my taste.

Andrew Lee Potts and Matt Frewer were the real bright spots here. As Hatter and the White Knight, respectively, they steal the scenes that they’re in.

I wasn’t a fan of making Wonderland look a bit like New Orleans after Katrina, in terms of being flooded and dystopian. Why is it that all these films that are allegedly set in the future have to be so down and depressing?

I was a big fan of the flying flamingo scooter things. Aside from adding some much needed color to this picture, as well as harkening back to the story, they looked like they were fun to ride and I want one (even if I am just as scaredof heights as Alice).

Usually when you see a Syfy channel movie, you’re in for cheap, cheesy effects and bad dialogue. I believe they spend all their money on these epic miniseries. However, if they’re going to shell out the cash for these things, then they need to hire better writers and actors, and not make them so similar.

Did anyone actually ask for a reimaging of Alice in Wonderland? No, but I belive Syfy is trying to capitalize on the upcoming Alice in Wonderland by Tim Burton. Sure, this was an ok film, but it wasn’t anything to brag about. There were times when I was downright bored and/or confused. I won’t be breaking down walls to see it again, that’s for sure. Until Tim Burton’s version comes out in the spring, if I need my Alice fix, I’ll stick to the Disney classic version.

3 out of 5 stars

Elf

Posted in Comedy, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 6, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The film begins with Buddy as a baby being placed in the crib by a nun. As Santa Claus comes down to the room, Buddy discovers that there is a teddy bear in the sack and crawls in just until he’s brought to the North Pole where the elves continue to make toys. Buddy is raised by Papa Elf and manages to stand up and grows up in a sequence into a big guy. He seems to be too big unlike the elves. In the toy testing room, he demonstrates the jack-in-the-boxes to pop open and he gets a little frustrated. He overhears other elves complaining about him not realizing that he is a human, which causes him to faint in shock.

Buddy learns from Papa Elf and Santa that his father is a businessman in New York City who is unfortunately on the naughty list. He decides to travel from to North Pole to meet his dad at the Empire State Building, but he is mistaken for a Christmas-gram. His behavior gets him thrown out, and he wanders to Gimbels department store. He is thought to be an employee and meets Jovie, a worker at the store who is not too thrilled about Christmas. Buddy is immediately smitten with her.

His enthusiasm for Christmas and being an elf gets in the way everywhere he goes, at Gimbels and at his father’s job. He eventually befriends his half-brother, and asks Jovie on a date. On Christmas Eve, a misunderstanding leads to him being thrown out by his father, and he walks through Central Park to discover Santa with his sleigh. He needs Buddy’s help to get everyone’s Christmas spirits back up so he can fly, and his family and Jovie help. Christmas is saved.

Buddy ends up writing his own children’s book about his adventure, and the film ends with Buddy visiting Papa Elf at the North Pole, accompanied by Jovie and their baby daughter, Susie.

REVIEW:

Holiday films tend to be sappy, but Elf  leans more towards your typical Will Ferrell comedy, only a little more family oriented…note, I said a LITTLE.

Ferrell stars as Buddy the Elf, an orphan who somehow sneaks into Santa’s sack and hitches a ride to the North Pole where he is adopted by Papa Elf and raised by the elves, yet when he becomes an adult, he finally figures out he doesn’t fit in, so he sets out to find his biological father in New York City.

If you’ve ever seen any of Ferrell’s previous films, with the exception of Stranger than Fiction, than you know that he is nothing more than a mere man-child. As Buddy the Elf, that persona fits the character and thus leads to one of his best performances.

James Caan is usually cast as gruff, grumpy, old guys, and as Walter, that trend continues. Although he does come off as anti-Buddy for most of the film, he does turn the corner and the audience can feel for him in the end.

The gorgeous Zooey Deschanel in a part of the cast as Buddy’s love interest once he arrives in New York City. She doesn’t really have much of a role except for her singing, which is quite good if you ask me, but the blonde hair is distracting on her for me, but that’s more of a personal thing thana full out complaint.

When Buddy is leaving the North Pole he talks to come stop motion animated characters reminiscent of the 60s and 70s Christmas special. It is kind of an odd and out of place moment, but at the same time, it’s quite fun to know that they’re paying homage to the past like that.

For some, holiday movies just aren’t they’re cup of tea. I’m not one of those people, but there is a limit. While this film is very good, it does have an overabundance of sweetness that leaves you feeling like you picked up a bunch of cavities. Still, with all the dark movies that come out these days, its nice that someone had the balls to make a lighthearted film, and with the exception fo a couple minor sex jokes and some choice language, this may have ended up rated G. Get in the holiday spirit and check it out, even if you’re not a Will Ferrell fan, I can all but guarantee you’ll love this one.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Stan Helsing

Posted in Comedy, Horror, Movie Reviews, Spoofs & Satire with tags , , , , , , , , on December 5, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Stan Helsing (Steve Howey) is an underachieving employee at a video rental store named Schlockbuster whose personal motto is “Don’t get involved” which leads to some interesting situations. When his teen-aged boss orders him to drop off a bag of movies to the mother of the store’s owner or risk not having a job Monday morning. Despite his arguments, he agrees to the request and manages to get his friend Teddy (Kenan Thompson), his ex-girlfriend Nadine (Diora Baird) and a ditzy blond massage therapist Mia (Desi Lydic) to take him there before they attend a Halloween party. The friends agree although the house is in the opposite direction as without a job Stan would be unable to pay them back money he owes them.

Enroute, the group encounters a traffic jam and to Stan’s surprise he spots Lucky,the living doll, (Jeff Gulka) in the van of a MILF next to them who makes obscene gestures that no one else notices. They miss their exit and while on the back roads, the group hits a dog in the street named Sammy and inadvertently ask the dog’s owner for help who threatens to kill them for murdering his beloved dog Sammy. Teddy picks up a hitchhiker, but after learning he was convicted of murdering nurses they violently throw him from the moving vehicle. They come across a gas station where the perverted owners tell Stan that he may be related to the legendary Abraham Van Helsing the monster hunter. They depart and after finding Stormy Night Estates, they discover the attendants never put gas into the car. They come across a local bar and meet the ire of the townsfolk in a bad attempt of Karaoke while singing Johnny Cash’s song Ring of Fire.

After they leave, they discover that all the citizens, including their “waitress” played by Leslie Neilson have been dead since a massive fire in the town ten years prior. They encounter several monsters including Needlehead, the hockey masked killer Mason, Lucky, the same doll that Stan had seen earlier, Fweddy, Pleatherface and Michael Criers a jewish killer (parodies of Pinhead, Jason Voorhees, Chucky, Freddy Krueger, Leatherface, and Michael Myers. They are given weapons by an extroverted altar boy who is so very close to becoming a priest who informs Stan of his destiny and that he is Van Helsing’s descendant, arming them with various weapons before kicking them out of his church. The townsfolk offer a competition in which Stan and his friends compete against the monsters in Karaoke. The humans are unanimously voted as the winners, but the monsters refuse to leave town. Disobeying his policy of never getting involved, Stan turns each of the monsters’ weaknesses against them, soundly defeating them and feeding them to Sammy who had been brought back to vicious life (a’la Cujo or Pet Cemetery). The group calls a cab and they leave the town as heroes. During the trip home, Nadine discovers how much she cares for Stan and kisses him. Teddy suggest kissing Mia, but she rebuffs with a lap dance offer instead which he gladly accepts. And the movie ends with the taxi driving away and you hear sounds of moaning.

REVIEW:

There was a time when a spoof like this would be comedy gold. SAdly, those days are gone. Stan Helsing, while loaded with promise, especially with a second-rate cast (Leslie Nielsen and Kenan Thompson are the biggest names in the picture), just doesn’t bring it home.

As obvious by the title, this mainly a parody of Van Helsing. The thing about that is, well, the only similarities are the 3 vampire whores (brides), and an allusion to Van Helsing at the gas station. If you’re going to make a parody, make a parody, don’t use it in the name only and then slap a bunch of stuff together and call it a picture, which is what we have here.

How is the acting,  you may ask? Well, remember this is not only a parody/spoof, but a horror parody/spoof, so as bad as it would be normally, its doubly bad. When Steve Howey was on Reba, I liked him, but knew he couldn’t act his way out of a paper bag. How he was chosen to be the leading man for this film is beyond me. He must have something on the producers or something.

The girls are typical. The airheaded blonde an moody brunette. Nothing special about either of them. They are eye candy more than anything else. although, Doira Baird, Nadine, does have a bit of an actual character at the very beginning, but somehow that disappears as the film progresses. Don’t ask me why, it just does.

Kenan Thompson is a little funny, but seems out of place here. Not just because he’s the token black guy in the group, but just because he actually has a steady gig over on SNL, yet he’s wasting his talent here. Maybe Kel had to back out and asked Kenan to take over?

The plot is so thin and confusing that this might as well have been just a long sketch on some variety comedy show. There’s no development of the story, it just moves along from joke to joke, with a gag here and some dialogue there.

When I decided to watch this, I was hoping for a good spoof, but as has been proven time and time again, unless you get ALL the writers from the first two Scary Movies, then you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment. However, this film isn’t a total loss. The girls are nice to look at, and the jokes and gags dealing with the altar boy are pretty funny. I don’t recommend watching this, though. It isn’t worth losing 90 minutes from your life.

2 out of 5 stars

Imagine That

Posted in Comedy, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , on December 5, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

A financial executive, Evan Danielson (Eddie Murphy) can’t stop his career downspiral. However, it turns out that his young daughter, with the help of her magical blanket and her imaginary friends, is capable of predicting which stocks are good investments. Meanwhile, his scheming co-worker Johnny Whitefeather (Thomas Haden Church) tries to figure out Evan’s secret to his newly found success.

Olivia (Yara Shahidi) is a girl who we think has divorced parents and spends most time living with her mother (Nicole Ari Parker), rarely with her father. Her father, Evan (Eddie Murphy) is a workaholic father and doesn’t know anything about his daughter, ignoring her, and telling her to stop talking to her “magic” blanket so called “Goo-Gaa”. Evan works at a company that he has been at for 8 and a half years and has a competitor, Johnny Whitefeather (Thomas Haden Church). On a day Evan has a conference, he has to bring Olivia since he cannot leave her alone at home. While Evan is just warming up, he cannot find his work papers for the conference. He soon finds out that Olivia drew pictures and cut patterns on his work papers and gets angry. Johnny steals the spotlight so Evan gets even angrier and makes up stories about the other companies relating to what Olivia did to the papers. Evan coincidentally said everything about the story true. And gets a raise. He asks Olivia how she knew everything and said she asked Goo-Gaa.

REVIEW:

It seems these days Eddie Murphy only does family films and lends his voice to Donkey in the Shrek movies. The problem with that is that his brand of humor is wasted in films like this. Murphy needs to be let go in some kind of R-rated raunchy comedy where he can just be himself, and not be confined like he is here.

I’m a huge Eddie Murphy fan, and he has his moments in this film, but for the most part, you could have just picked anyone off the street to do what he does in this picture. It is a sad thing to say, but it is true.

Murphy isn’t the only drawback to this film, the little girl, Olivia, played by newcomer Yada Shahidi came off as annoying, especially in the early parts of the film. I’m sorry, but a child her age should know better than to draw/glue on paper that has writing on it. Furthermore, she should not have screamed bloody murder just because she doesn’t have her blanket. It just seems like she was taking advantage of her cuteness, or lack thereof in this case, because she really isn’t that cute if you ask me.

This film could have been so much more than what it ended up being. I say that because they could have done something to transport us, the viewer, to Olivia’s world. I guess they didn’t because they wanted to make it more obvious that they were in her head an all, but I just feel that they could have done so much with those characters had they have chosen to go that route.

Thomas Haden Church’s character, Johnny Whitefeather, who resembles Phil Hartman’s Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer from SAturday Night Live, at frist had me confused. I ws wondering…why couldn’t they find a real Native American actor to play that part, but it turns out at the end he isn’t really a NAtive American, so that let them off the hook as far as casting ,but all the clichés and empty philosophies were a bit pointless.

As you can tell, I’m not a fan of this film. I think if you want to see a film about kids’ imaginations affecting a grown up, than Bedtime Stories is an infinitely better choice. Still, this movie is what it is, a nice little family film with a good moral and happy ending. Through all its shortcomings, it does succeed in that department.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 5, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The prologue depicts a young Indiana Jones in 1912 as a Boy Scout settling in Utah, battling grave robbers for the Cross of Coronado, an ornamental cross belonging to Francisco Vázquez de Coronado. As the foiled grave robbers give chase, Indiana hides in a circus train, in the process using a whip, scarring his chin, and gaining a fear of snakes. Although he rescues the cross, the robbers tell the Sheriff that Indiana was the thief, and he is forced to return it, while his oblivious father, Henry Jones, Sr., is working on his research into the Holy Grail, keeping meticulous notes in a diary. The leader of the hired robbers, dressed very similarly to the future Indiana and impressed by the young Indy’s tenacity, gives him his fedora and some encouraging words. In 1938, Indiana recovers the cross from the robbers’ ship in the coast of Portugal, and donates it to Marcus Brody’s museum.

Indiana is introduced to the wealthy Walter Donovan, who informs him that Indy’s estranged father has vanished while searching for the Holy Grail, using an incomplete stone tablet as his guide. Indy receives a package which turns out to be his father’s Grail diary, containing all his life’s research on the Grail. Understanding that his father would not have sent the diary unless he was in trouble, Indiana and Marcus travel to Venice, where they meet Henry’s colleague Dr. Elsa Schneider. Indiana and Elsa discover catacombs beneath the library where Henry was last seen, and discover the tomb of Sir Richard, a knight of the First Crusade, with a complete version of the stone tablet that Henry used. They flee when the catacombs are set aflame by The Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword, a secret society. They are pursued and escape on a speedboat, and a chase through Venice ensues in which they capture the cult’s leader, Kazim. After Indiana convinces him of their intentions, Kazim explains The Brotherhood are protecting the Grail from those with evil intentions, and that Henry was abducted to a castle on the Austrian-German border.

Indiana and Elsa infiltrate the castle. Indiana finds his father, but learns that Elsa and Donovan are working with the Nazis to seek the grail, hoping that Indiana would discover its location. The Nazis capture Marcus, who had traveled to Iskenderun, Hatay with the map to the Grail’s location. The Joneses are able to escape and recover the diary from Elsa at a Nazi rally in Berlin, where they proceed to try and escape from Germany to meet with Sallah in a Blimp. But when Vogel finds them Indy however becomes a Conductor by offering the real one to let Indy do his job for him, Vogel finds Jones’s father, but Indy comes to him and asks for Tickets, and then He knocks Vogel out of the blimp saving Jones Sr. In Hatay, there they learn of Marcus’ abduction and that the Nazis, backed with resources from the country’s leader, are already moving to the Grail’s location. With the help of The Brotherhood, the Joneses ambush the convoy and rescue Marcus, though Donovan and Elsa continue on to the Canyon of the Crescent Moon, where the Grail resides.

Indy, his father, Marcus, and Sallah catch up and find that the Nazis are unable to pass through traps set before the Grail. After the four are discovered, Donovan shoots and mortally wounds Henry, forcing Indiana to circumvent the traps using the information in his father’s diary, with Donovan and Elsa shortly following him. Indiana succeeds and finds himself in a room with the last Knight of the First Crusade, kept alive with the power of the Grail, which has been hidden among several other cups. Elsa selects a gilded cup encrusted in jewels for Donovan, knowing it to be fake; when Donovan drinks from it, he ages rapidly before decaying and turning into dust. Indiana, recognizing that the Grail would be that of a humble carpenter instead of a wealthy king, selects the correct vessel, and quickly takes it to his father with the holy water, which heals his wounds instantly when the older Jones drinks from it. As they prepare to leave, the Knight warns them to not take the Grail out of the temple, but Elsa does so, causing the temple to collapse. Elsa falls into an abyss during a greedy attempt to recover the Grail, and Indiana falls into the chasm, held by one arm by his father. As he reaches for the Grail, not knowing he is about to fall to his demise, his father simply says “Indiana, let it go”. Realising his father cares more for him than the Grail, the Joneses, Marcus, and Sallah narrowly escape the collapsing temple. While they prepare the horses to ride off Sallah asks why Henry Jones calls Indiana “Junior”. Henry tells Sallah it’s Indiana’s name, Henry Jones Jr, and that Indiana was the name of their dog. The four then ride out of the canyon, and into the sunset.

REVIEW:

Indiana Jones belongs in the pantheon of great action heroes of American cinema. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is the 3rd (and many thought, final) part of the saga. Here we get a little more info on Indy’s background (which inspired the short-lives TV series Young Indiana Jones Chronicles).

With the memorable theme, and unmistakable fedora and bullwhip, Harrison Ford returns to take up the mantle of Indiana Jones a this time. In this film, he’s a little more subdued than in the previous, but that doesn’t really play a major factor in his performance, unless you’re just anal about him trying to jump around kill himself doing stunts.

While on the subject of Indy, I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize the actor who portrays him as a young man, River Phoenix. Although, he died a couple years later, it is obvious that he was huge acting talent and he spend time with Ford. His mannerisms and facial contortions were present. He really did his homework.

Sean Connery enters the franchise as Henry Jones, Sr., Indy’s father. This is an interesting choise, if you ask me. I don’t mean that in any kind of negative connotation, but in terms of Connery being such a massive acting force, as is Ford, that putting them together as father and son was inspired casting.

Following Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, many were turned off by its dark nature, so the producers lightened the tone for this one. While there are those out there that don’t agree with this decision, I think it worked out for the best. Indy is not some dark, brooding characters, nor is he some slapstick caricature. They found a nice middle ground for him and it really works.

The story is great, but I would have liked to have learned a little more about Indy’s father and maybe some more info on what it is that caused them to fall apart. With all the action in this film, they could have slowed it down and used the real acting chops of Ford and Connery for a brilliant flashback scene or two, before getting back to the action. THat’s a minor personal thing, though.

If you’re a fan of action heroes from the Golden Age of Hollywood, then you’ll love Indiana Jones. Indy is a throwback and these films are even set in that time period. It was originally thought this was going to be the last Indiana Jones film, then Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was made. Still, had it turned out to be the end of the sage, it is a fitting end to such a magnificent character as he rides off into the sunset.

5 out of 5 stars

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