Revisited: The Toxic Avenger

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , , on July 9, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Melvin Ferd III, a stereotypical 98-pound weakling, works as a janitor at the Tromaville Health Club in the fictional Tromaville, New Jersey. There, he is tormented by his customers Bozo, Slug, Wanda and Julie. The Mayor of Tromaville is Peter Belgoody, who, unknown to the citizens of the town, is also the leader of a massive Tromaville crime ring, but hides this fact by promoting good will and proposed justice to the town as a cover-up. As days go by, Melvin’s tormentors grow more and more violent, even killing a young boy on a bike in a hit and run and taking photos of the carnage afterwards. Finally one day, they trick Melvin into wearing a pink tutu and kissing a sheep. He is chased around the health club by other customers and jumps out of a second story window. He lands in a drum of toxic waste which immediately causes severe burns and disfigurement. Despite the burning chemicals even causing him to burst into flames, Melvin survives and stumbles home. Drawing a bath to try and scrub some of the chemical residue from his horribly scarred flesh, Melvin begins his transformation into a hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength.

Elsewhere, a group of drug dealers led by the criminal Cigar Face are harassing a police officer by the name of O’Clancy, trying to buy him off. When he refuses to accept the money, Cigar Face and his gang attack and brutalize him. Then, just as Cigar Face prepares to castrate Officer O’Clancy with his gun, a large creature comes out of nowhere and violently kills Cigar Face’s goons Knuckles and Nipples, and leaves a mop on their faces as a call sign. Cigar Face survives, but has had his testicles smashed by the creature before escaping. O’Clancy is initially terrified of the creature but soon learns he was only trying to help him as the creature approaches him and politely apologizes for his behavior as he has “never done this sort of thing before”. The officer’s rescuer, dubbed the “Monster Hero”, is the now-profoundly mutated Melvin. He tries to return home, but his mother ends up fainting upon the sight of him. Wracked with sorrow, the Monster Hero builds a makeshift home in the junkyard. Mayor Belgoody is shocked at the deaths of some of his goons, but is still confident that the Monster will not come looking for him, hoping that one of his goons will kill him eventually.

Elsewhere in Tromaville, three men named Leroy, Frank and Rico hold up a Mexican fast food restaurant. Leroy kills one of the patrons and Frank attacks a blind woman named Sara after Leroy kills her guide dog. Frank attempts to rape her, but is attacked by the Monster Hero, who ends up ripping off Frank’s right arm. He wreaks bloody vengeance on the three men: Leroy is first covered in whipped cream (and a cherry) before having a milkshake stirrer rammed into his throat, Rico has his hands and wrists plunged into a deep-fryer and Frank is stuffed in an oven. The Monster Hero takes Sara back to her home, where they begin to get to know one another and progressively fall in love. The Monster Hero returns to the Health Club, killing a drug dealer by crushing his face with a weight-lifting machine. There, he attacks popular girl Wanda. Afterwards, the Monster is relieving himself in a back alley when a limo pulls up and a pimp tries to push a 12-year-old girl onto him. When he starts to fight back to save the girl, a group of men come out of the limo. He fights them all off and saves the girl. The Monster Hero soon starts building up a friendly reputation in Tromaville by doing all sorts of “superhero” work from saving two younger boys from being run over by Bozo’s car to even helping the elderly to cross the street.

Meanwhile, Mayor Belgoody is becoming more and more aware about what is happening to his goons as not only are they being killed one by one by the Monster Hero, but some of them are also turning themselves over to the police for their own safety. He is now worried that their deaths will lead up to him sooner than he expects and wants the Monster Hero to be taken care of. One night, Cigar Face returns (covered in bandages and casts) and brings along a new group of Belgoody’s goons to surround the Monster with guns. Before they fire on him, he jumps up to a fire escape and they end up shooting and killing each other with Cigar Face getting away. The Monster Hero returns to the health club again and attacks Julie. Soon afterwards, he confronts the last of his tormentors, Bozo and Slug, who have attacked an old woman and stolen her car when Julie doesn’t show up. Bozo and Slug try to run him over, but the Monster jumps on top of the car and grabs Slug crushing his neck and throwing him out of the moving car. The Monster Hero then confronts Bozo by grabbing him by the face and terrifies him by revealing himself as Melvin from the accident to a horrified Bozo. After several accidents that occur because of Bozo’s driving, the Monster tears off the wheel to the car causing Bozo to drive off the side of a cliff. The car crashes and bursts into flames burning Bozo alive, but unaffecting the monster. One day, when the Monster Hero kills a seemingly innocent old midget woman in a dry cleaning store (it is later revealed that she is in fact a leader of an underground white slave trade) by throwing her into the store’s washing machine, the Monster Hero wanders back to his junkyard home revealing his true identity to Sara and feeling terrified and guilty for what he has become. Sara however tells Melvin that she still loves him no matter what he looks like and the two decide to move away from the city and take a tent into nearby woods.

However, Belgoody finds out about the Monster Hero’s “mishap” and uses this opportunity to call in the National Guard in hopes of finally killing him. Soon Sara and the Monster are discovered in the woods and now surrounded by both the National Guard and the townspeople. Mayor Belgoody comes intent on killing him (whereas the National Guard’s request was originally for capture). But thanks to the Monster’s kind duties to the town, the people of Tromaville including the Monster Hero’s mother will have none of it. Mayor Belgoody’s evil ways are exposed after he threatens to kill O’Clancy for trying to take his gun away from him. The Monster Hero then kills Mayor Belgoody by ripping out his organs to see if he has “any guts”. The film ends with the townspeople’s celebration at the Monster’s acceptance and a reassuring epilogue that wherever evil brews in Tromaville, Melvin the Monster Hero, now dubbed the “Toxic Avenger”, will be there to protect the town

REVIEW:

Man, you could away with just about anything in the 80s and call it a film, couldn’t you? In what other point in time could you have a mutated freak, who is a 7 foot tall killer, basically become a superhero? Only in the 80s, my friends, for today, this would be some hardcore horror picture complete with deep, and unnecessary, character development. Thanks goodness The Toxic Avenger just kills a couple of people, then moves on to the next scenes, rise and repeat!

What is this about?

In this satirical spoof, the meatheads at a local health club push around the geeky janitor who works there. One day, however, the bullies push too far, and the janitor falls out a window and into a dump truck filled with toxic sludge. The toxic dip transforms the janitor into a hulking superhero — the Toxic Avenger — who fights for justice at all costs and is plenty popular with the ladies too!

What did I like?

Defend the little people. After he turns into the Toxic Avenger, Melvin is compelled to defend the citizens of Tromaville. In some random scene, which was obviously placed there to explain to the audience why he was killing people, it said that the toxic waste, along with the way he was turned subconsciously made him want to obliterate evil. No problem with that from me. I actually liked that the little guy who gets constantly picked on turns into a big guy and can return the favor!

Gratuitous 80s. If you’ve ever seen a movie from the 80s, then you know that back then they didn’t hesitate to show as much skin and violence as they possible could whenever it was possible. Why else would there be girls in bikinis in the gym, or return trips to the steam room, or the crushing of a kid’s head, etc. In today’s cinema, these things don’t happen without someone getting all up in arms and offended, but back then no one even batted an eyelash. Sure, the picture could have done without some of this stuff, but what fun would it be?

Monster no more. After his change, the director made a brilliant move with Melvin. For about 30 minutes or so of his killing spree and daily life, we don’t see his face. All we do is hear him growling, crushing skulls and whatnot. Then, as he is about to exact revenge on a girl in the steam room, he dons a cloak a la The Elephant Man, and sneaks up on her (something her boyfriend had done earlier in the film). She thinks it is her beloved betrothed, rips it off and we see the face of the “monster”. Genius way of introducing us to the hideous face, as well as developing the mystery notion of is he friend or foe up to that point.

What didn’t I like?

Muscles? Isn’t it amazing the varying effects toxic waste can have? Apparently, it can turn you into a homicidal maniac clown that terrorized Gotham City and Batman, it can totally kill you (hence the word toxic), or it can change you from a 90 lb weakling nerd to a 7 ft muscle-bound mutant with God-like strength. I don’t question the mutation, especially given the cheap look of this film, but I do wonder what it is about toxic waste that made Melvin grow a couple of feet and add on muscles, not to mention totally change his voice. I guess it is the same thing that was in those old milk commercials from the early 90s. Kudos if you remember those!

Thing, is that you? As I’ve been typing this post, a thought came to mind. There are similarities between the Toxic Avenger and Thing from the Fantastic Four. For instance, they both are hideously, seemingly irreversibly disfigured/changed. Also, they have blind (and hot) girlfriends. Now, isn’t that one of the weirdest coincidences? What are the chances? I don’t mind that Melvin has a blind girl for a girlfriend, I just question why she had to be blind to fall in love with a hideously disfigured superhero when usually all it takes is for them to save their life a time or two *COUGH* Lois Lane *COUGH*

Out of place. Earlier today, I was reading an article about how a fat woman wore a 2 piece bikini to the beach. She has been getting mostly praise and accolade for taking that step as a positive image for women’s body images. Truthfully, I don’t think she looked that fat from the picture they showed, but that’s neither here nor there. In the gym scenes, though, we have all these fit, attractive, scantily clad girls running around, and then there is this one chick in sweats, looking miserable, and I think at one time she was eating a donut. Yes, there is a random fat girl in these scenes. I don’t mind that she’s there, but did they need to make her stick out so? Especially since she’s not really a character in the film! I don’t recall her having any lines or being addressed in any way. This just seemed to be a mean-spirited joke by the filmmakers that didn’t go over very well with me, that’s for sure.

All in all, The Toxic Avenger, for all its B-Movie level acting, special effects, and dialogue is a fun time. Believe it or not, there are a couple of plots in here. One involving the corrupt mayor and the other with the bullies that are responsible for Melvin’s transformation, inadvertently. Neither is really that important, though, as the big story is the life and time of our hero, which is who and why you are watching this film anyway. Do I recommend this? Yes, very much so, but I warn you about the sequels (and apparently a musical?). It is all downhill from here, so enjoy it while you can, or check out the cheesy cartoon that is fun, too…in that early 90s kind of way.

4 out of 5 stars

High Anxiety

Posted in Classics, Comedy, Movie Reviews, Spoofs & Satire with tags , , , , , , , on July 9, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The story begins at Los Angeles airport, where Dr. Richard Thorndyke (Mel Brooks) has several odd encounters (such as a homosexual man disguised as a police officer). He leaves for the institute with his driver, Brophy (Ron Carey). Upon his arrival, he is greeted by the staff, Dr. Charles Montague (Harvey Korman), Dr. Philip Wentworth (Dick Van Patten) and Nurse Charlotte Diesel (Cloris Leachman). When he goes to his room, a large rock is thrown through the window, with a message of welcome from the Violent Ward.

Thorndyke then hears strange noises coming from Nurse Diesel’s room and when he and Brophy go to investigate, Diesel claims it was the TV. However, it was a passionate session of BDSM with Dr. Montague. The next morning, Thorndyke is alerted by a light shining through his window. It is coming from the violent ward. Dr. Montague takes Thorndyke to the light’s source, the room of patient Arthur Brisbane, who, after suffering a nervous breakdown, thinks he is a Cocker Spaniel.

Later, Nurse Diesel is talking with Dr. Wentworth. He wants to leave, but she won’t let him. However, after some arguing, she says she’ll let him go. When Wentworth is driving home that night, his radio blasts rock music loudly and will not shut off. He is trapped in his car, his ears hemorrhage, and he dies from a stroke, aggravated by the loud volume.

After this, Thorndyke goes to the grand hotel – the broad-atriumed, vertigo-inducing Hyatt Regency San Francisco, where much to his dismay he is relegated to a room on the top floor, due to a reservation change by a “Mr. MacGuffin”. He pesters the bellboy (Barry Levinson) with repeated requests for a newspaper, wanting to look in the obituaries for information concerning Dr. Wentworth’s demise. He then takes a shower, during which the bellboy comes and in a frenzy mimics stabbing Thorndyke with the paper while screaming “Here’s your paper! Happy now?! Happy?” The paper’s ink runs down the drain, a reference to Psycho.

After his shower, a woman bursts through the door; she is Victoria Brisbane (Madeline Kahn), the daughter of Arthur Brisbane (Albert Whitlock). She wants help regarding her father. He agrees to the terms, but then finds out Nurse Diesel’s plot. The patient is not the real Arthur Brisbane.

To stop Thorndyke, Diesel and Montague hire a killer, “Braces” (Rudy De Luca), to impersonate Thorndyke and shoot a man in the lobby. Now with the police after him, he must prove his innocence. After he is briefly attacked by pigeons, he contacts Brophy, and realizes Brophy took a picture of the shooting. The real Thorndyke was in the elevator at the time, so he should be in the picture.

He orders Brophy to enlarge the picture. When he goes to call, “Braces” tries to strangle him; however, Thorndyke is able to kill him. Brophy enlarges the photo, and Thorndyke is indeed visible in the picture. Nurse Diesel and Montague capture Brophy and take him to the North Wing. They also take the real Arthur Brisbane to a tower to kill him.

As Thorndyke runs up the tower to save him and Brisbane, Nurse Diesel leaps out from the shadows in a witch’s costume with a broom, and falls out the tower window. Thinking she really is a witch, she tries to act like she’s flying, ending in her death at the rocks below.

Dr. Montague appears from the shadows and gives up before being hit in the head by the trap door by Brophy. Victoria is reunited with her father and gets married to Thorndyke who go off on Honeymoon.

REVIEW:

With the success of Alfred Hitchcock’s films, it is a wonder that no one has really made an attempt to make a full on spoof of them. Sure, we get plenty of cartoon and comic fodder of scenes here and there, but nothing that is a full on riff of his masterpieces. That is until the release of High Anxiety, a parody film by the master of parody, Mel Brooks.

What is this about?

Dr. Richard Thorndyke arrives as new administrator of the Psychoneurotic Institute for the Very, VERY Nervous to discover some suspicious goings-on. When he’s framed for murder, Dr. Thorndyke must confront his own psychiatric condition, “high anxiety,” in order to clear his name. An homage to the films of Alfred Hitchcock; contains many parodies of famous Hitchcock scenes from The Birds, Psycho, and Vertigo.

What did I like?

The usual suspects. Mel Brooks seems to have a set group of actors whom he can call upon for any of his films. Madeline Kahn, Harvey Korman, Dick van Patten, and to a certain extent, Cloris Leachman. A recurring cast like that always helps because they know he director, his style, etc., making for a string of great performances.

Reference. Along with parodying Psycho, Vertigo, and The Birds, this film makes reference to other works of Hitchcock’s. For instance, late in the film, Brooks’ asks his female accomplice to meet him in the “North by Northwest” corner of the park, an obvious reference to Hitchcock’s North by Northwest.

Respect. When one makes a parody of something, you always wonder what the creator of the original is going to think. I’m sure that was going through Brooks’ head when he learned that Hitchcock was going to see this. As it turns out, though, he loved it and sent a word of congratulation to Brooks, as well as some fancy wine. Of course, Hitchcock did work with him on the screenplay, so there may have been a little bit of a pat on the back there, as well. HA!

What didn’t I like?

Blonde ambition. Madeline Kahn is normally the gorgeous, sexpot in Brooks’ films. No change in her role in this flick, except for the fact that she went blonde. Normally, I could care less about something as fickle as the color of someone’s hair, but the blonde was such a distraction for me that I have to mention it. Kahn looks best when she is sporting red locks. Who had the bright idea to turn her blonde for this? It really did no good, honestly.

Awkward. Ever have one of those moments when you need to talk about something adult-oriented, but some kids suddenly show up? Brooks writes this in at a convention in which his character happened to speaking. Not long after one of the other psychiatrists asks him about penis envy, another comes in with his two daughters. While it is a bit of a funny scene, I didn’t really see how it connected with everything.

Make an appearance. In nearly all of his film’s, Alfred Hitchcock made some sort of appearance, much like Stan Lee does with the Marvel films today. However, he doesn’t appear in this. Being that this isn’t his film, that isn’t such a big surprise, but wouldn’t it have been nice to see Hitch somewhere in this? I’m just saying.

For someone like me, who is a fan of Hitchcock’s films, specifically the ones that are targeted, High Anxiety is a rare treat. It isn’t very often that a parody treats the material with such love and respect as this film does. Brooks even goes so far as to set a scene in the same, if not VERY similar, setting  as a previous film, I forgot which one. The bridge and phone booth make for the perfect backdrop. Do I recommend this film? Yes, very highly! Check it out!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Posted in Movie Reviews, Animation, Family with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 8, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Five years after the Viking village of Berk has made peace with the dragons, dragons now live amongst the villagers as working animals and companions, and even take part in racing sports. Hiccup goes on adventures with his dragon, Toothless, as they discover and map unexplored lands and territories. Having come of age, he is being pressed by his father, Stoick the Vast, to succeed him as chieftain, although Hiccup remains unsure if he is ready for this responsibility.

While investigating a wildfire, Hiccup and Astrid discover the remains of a fort encased in a colossal green ice formation and encounter a dragon trapper named Eret, who blames them for the destruction of his fort and attempts to capture their dragons for an insane conqueror called Drago Bludvist. The two riders return to Berk to warn Stoick about the dragon army that Drago is amassing, and Stoick orders the villagers to fortify the island and prepare for battle. Stoick explains that he once met Drago and found him to be an unreasonable madman, but Hiccup refuses to believe that war is inevitable. Hiccup flies off with Astrid and they surrender themselves and their dragons to Eret so as to be taken to Drago in order to reason with him.

They are captured by a dragon rider named Valka, who is revealed to be Hiccup’s long lost mother. She explains that she spent twenty years rescuing dragons from Drago’s traps and bringing them to an island haven created out of ice by a colossal Alpha dragon called a Bewilderbeast, to whom all dragons answer. Stoick tracks Hiccup to the island where he discovers that his wife is still alive. Simultaneously, Astrid and the other riders kidnap Eret to find Drago, but they are also captured and Drago learns of Berk’s dragons.

Drago and his army lay siege to Valka’s sanctuary, where he reveals that he has his own Bewilderbeast to challenge the Alpha. A titanic battle ensues between the two Bewilderbeasts in a fight for control over all dragons on the island. Drago’s Bewilderbeast emerges victorious by killing the Alpha and seizes control of all the dragons, including Toothless. Hiccup tries to persuade Drago to end the violence, but Drago orders him killed as well. Toothless, under the influence of the new Alpha, approaches Hiccup and fires a plasma blast. At the last instant, Stoick pushes Hiccup out of the way, and is hit instead, killing him instantly. Drago leaves Hiccup to his fate and, riding Toothless, leads his now larger army to destroy Berk. Stoick is given a ship burial and Hiccup, now filled with regret at the loss of his father and his dragon, decides that he will fly back to Berk to defend his people and live up to his father’s legacy.

The dragon riders and Eret ride baby dragons, which are immune to the Bewilderbeast’s control, and arrive at Berk after the Alpha had already attacked the village and taken control of the dragons there. Hiccup confronts Drago and a brainwashed Toothless while the other riders work to distract the Bewilderbeast. Drago again orders Toothless to kill Hiccup, but Hiccup succeeds in disenchanting Toothless. Drago then orders the Alpha to shoot the pair, and the Bewilderbeast successfully encases them in a large blast of ice, seemingly killing them. His victory is short-lived, as Toothless, now glowing with plasma, blasts away the ice, revealing that both he and Hiccup are unharmed. Toothless challenges the Alpha and repeatedly fires plasma blasts at the Bewilderbeast. This frees the other dragons from the Bewilderbeast’s control and all fire at it, severely injuring the colossal dragon until Toothless fires a final massive blast, breaking its left tusk.

Defeated, Drago and his Bewilderbeast retreat into the ocean as the villagers celebrate their victory. All the dragons acknowledge Toothless as the new Alpha dragon, and Hiccup is made chief of Berk by the village elder. The film ends with Berk being rebuilt with a statue of Stoick erected in his honor, and Hiccup doing his duties as chief, proudly declaring that while others may have armies and armadas, Berk has its own dragons.

REVIEW:

Honestly, I don’t recall much about the original How to Train Your Dragon. That is not because it was a bad film, but rather I haven’t had the chance to watch and refresh my memory about it. I do remember how fun and entertaining it was and saying to myself that it was a notch in the right direction for DreamWorks who was and is still struggling to beat Pixar (though that gap is shrinking). Does How to Train Your Dragon 2 stand up to its predecessor or suffer the same fate as so many sequels tend to do these days?

What is this about?

Five years have passed, and while everyone else is caught up in dragon races, Hiccup and Toothless explore the island and make a shocking discovery. Will the mysterious Dragon Rider be friend or enemy to the rest of the island?

What did I like?

Aged like fine wine. Taking place 5 years after the first film, one would expect that characters to look a bit older…if this were live action. However, when it comes to animation, rarely do we see characters age, unless it is a time jump of some sorts. Just think about how long Bart Simpson has been 10 years old! The animators were smart enough to age these characters, rather than leave then in their pre-adolescent bodies.

Species. With a bigger film, we get to meet more dragons. While none are specifically introduced, with the exception of the Bewilderbeast(s), there are obviously different species that what we saw in the first film. Now, it is possible that these were introduced in the Cartoon Network animated series, but I haven’t had the chance to catch that, yet. I do appreciate seeing that there are more species out there than just the few we already knew. It shows how vast the dragon kingdom is. On a side note, the Bewilderbeasts are quite impressive. Such a shame we didn’t get to see more of the battle between the two alphas.

Here kitty..er…dragon. How can you not like Toothless. I have to give credit to these animators and designers. Not only did they create an instantly recognizable face of the franchise, but he steals your heart straight away with his cat like mannerisms and playful demeanor. If dragons were around in our world, this would be the kind I’d want as a pet, and I’m sure that I am not the only one. However, when it comes time to defend Hiccup, Toothless doesn’t mess around, and that is something that I also appreciated, along with the discovery of new powers previously unbeknownst to both Toothless and Hiccup.

What didn’t I like?

Do something, mom. After a brilliant introduction of Hiccup’s mom, previously thought deceased, she silently falls into the background and becomes a, for lack of a better word, a mother. Cheering on and offering advice to her son is all she does after being reunited with her husband Stoick the Vast. Now, this would be all fine and dandy if she hadn’t been initially introduced as a total badass, feral warrior. I must wonder why they “tamed” her for the rest of the picture.

Drago. Is it me, or does it seem like there is a prerequisite for there to be a villain named Drago in medieval era type stories. Here we have another one, this one borderline insane and somehow has found a way to control dragons. So, what is it that I didn’t like about him? Not to spoil anything, but he is defeated a little bit too easily. Also, while he may seem to be in control, had it not been for that Alpha he had, the tide might never have turned in his favor. This is a guy that gets ahead on opportunity, not his skill, and that does not a good villain make.

Tragedy. After the way the first film ended, I shouldn’t be surprised that this one takes a dark turn, as well. What does surprise me, though, is how they did it, and the fact that the character who is killed still lives in the books, if I’m not mistaken. I don’t know how far they want to stray from the source material, but it just seems as if killing serves no real purpose. The emotional toll it takes on the characters is one thing, but can’t we just make it through one of these films without some kind of tragedy fueling the climax?

How to Train Your Dragon 2 has been out for about a month now, and yet the theater I was in tonight was actually more packed than the ones for Transformers : Age of Extinction and X-Men: Days of Future Past. I guess there is something to be said for a good family flick. That is what this is, a good family film that appeals to both kids and adults. There are a few flaws here and there, but overall this is a fun film. I highly recommend it, possibly even in 3D!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Tommy Boy

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on July 6, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

After seven years at college, Thomas R. “Tommy” Callahan III (Chris Farley) barely graduates from Marquette University and returns to his hometown of Sandusky, Ohio. His father, industrialist, and widower, Thomas R. “Big Tom” Callahan, Jr. (Brian Dennehy), gives him an executive job at the family’s auto parts plant, Callahan Auto. In addition to the new job and office, Big Tom reveals that he plans to marry Beverly Barrish-Burns (Bo Derek), a woman he had met at a fat farm, and that her son, Paul (Rob Lowe), will become Tommy’s new stepbrother. At the wedding, Big Tom suddenly dies of a heart attack. After the funeral, doubting the future of the company without Big Tom, the bank reneges on promises of a loan for a new brake pad division and seeks immediate payment of Callahan Auto’s debts. Ray Zalinsky (Dan Aykroyd), owner and operator of another automotive, Zalinsky Auto Parts, offers to buy them out while the company’s shares are high, but Tommy suggests a deal: he will let the bank hold his inherited shares and house in exchange for helping the sales of brake pads going. The bank agrees, but they also want the company to prove it still has viability by selling 500,000 brake pads. If they succeed, the bank will grant the loan. Tommy volunteers to go on a cross-country sales trip with his father’s sycophantic assistant, Richard Hayden (David Spade), a childhood acquaintance who is annoyed over Tommy’s ability to be lazy and yet be rewarded.

Meanwhile, Beverly and Paul are shown kissing romantically. They are not mother and son, but rather married con artists with criminal records. Instead of eventually getting a divorce and taking half of Big Tom’s estate, Beverly has inherited half of the controlling interest in the company. To turn that into cash, she seeks a quick sale to Zalinsky. On the road, Tommy’s social anxiety and hyperactivity alienate several potential buyers. The lack of any progress leads to tension between Tommy and Richard. In addition, the duo encounter a variety of incidents that lead to the near destruction of Richard’s car. When all seems lost, Tommy persuades a surly waitress to serve him chicken wings after the friers are turned off. Seeing this, Richard realizes that Tommy has the ability to read people, just like his father, and suggests this is how he should sell all the time. The two mend their friendship and start to sell effectively to various automotive plants, eventually putting them over the half million mark. However, Paul sabotages the company’s computers, causing sales posted by sales manager Michelle Brock (Julie Warner) to be lost or misrouted. With half of the sales now canceled, the bank, backed by Beverly and Paul, decides to sell Callahan Auto to Zalinsky. Hoping that they can persuade Zalinsky to reconsider, Tommy and Richard travel to Chicago boarding a plane as flight attendants. In Chicago, they get a brief meeting with Zalinsky, but he tells them he only wants Callahan for the reputation, not the employees, and that after sale he will dissolve the company and absorb the production line into his company, leaving Callahan workers unemployed.

Tommy and Richard are denied entrance to the Zalinsky board room since Tommy has no standing. After briefly wallowing on the curb in self-pity, Michelle arrives with Paul and Beverly’s police records. Tommy devises ‘a plan’: dressed as a suicide bomber by using road flares, he attracts the attention of a live television news crew and then, along with Michelle and Richard, forces his way back into the board room. Back in Sandusky, Callahan workers watch the drama on a television. In a final move of pure persuasion, Tommy quotes Zalinsky’s own advertising slogan, that he is on the side of the “American working man.” As the TV audience watches, Zalinsky signs Tommy’s purchase order for 500,000 brake pads. Although Zalinsky says that the purchase order is meaningless as he will soon own Callahan Auto, Michelle shows her police records, which includes Paul’s outstanding warrants for fraud. Since Beverly is still married to Paul, her marriage to Big Tom was bigamous and therefore never legal. Thus, all of Big Tom’s controlling shares actually belong to Tommy, the rightful heir. Since Tommy does not want to sell the shares, the deal with Zalinsky is off and since Tommy still holds Zalinsky’s purchase order, the company is saved. Paul attempts to escape, but is arrested. Zalinsky admits that Tommy outplayed him and honors the large sales order. The film ends when Tommy starts his romance with Michelle and is made the president of Callahan Auto.

REVIEW:

Not too long ago, I was reading an article about how different the comedic landscape of cinema would be had Chris Farley not passed away, because if you go back and look, that is when Adam Sandler’s movies started coming out. This really got me thinking, and I honestly do believe there would be a difference in quality of comedies had Farley lived. I may post about that sometime in the near future, but for not, let’s talk about Tommy Boy.

What is this about?

Party animal Tommy Callahan is a few cans short of a six-pack. But when the family business starts tanking, it’s up to Tommy and number-cruncher Richard Hayden to save the day in this riotous road comedy.

What did I like?

Casting call. Two key roles had to be filled for this film, well 3 technically. The first is someone who has great chemistry with Chris Farley. Naturally, one would go back to his Saturday Night Live days to find the perfect choice, David Spade. The yin and yang between this odd couple really drives, pardon the pun, the film in the second half. Next, what big guy could you get to play Farley’s father. I can think of only two people who might work, though I am sure there are others, John Goodman and Brian Dennehy, who ultimately earned the role. Dennehy is a bigger guy, both in terms of girth and height, which made him the optimal choice for Big Tom. Finally, someone to fall for Tommy. That went to unknown actress, Julie Warner. Other than this, the only other time I’ve seen her was in season 6 of Dexter

Are you my mummy? You don’t cast Bo Derek unless you’re going to capitalize on her looks. Hell, I think they even brought up her beauty in the episodes of 7th Heaven in which she appeared. I appreciated how they introduced her coming out of the water, though, showing she still is a 10. Now, the way her character turns out to be a bit of an antagonist I didn’t care for, but much like Regina in Once Upon a Time, her beauty gives her a pass from me.

Road trip. A good road trip flick is hard to find. There plenty out there to choose from, but how many are truly memorable? In order for road trip films to stick in your head, there has to be some reason you want to watch those parties involved get from point A to point B. In this case, the fact that Tommy is trying to save his family’s legacy, the town, and the sacrifice he’s made to do so pull you in. Throw in the hijinks he and Spade get into along the way and the lack of success they have early on and you just can’t help but want to see how it will all end,

What didn’t I like?

Lit’rally worthless. Typically, when you bring in Rob Lowe, he is meant to be the slimy, yet suave, villain. At least that was his role in the 90s. Take Wayne’s World, for example. Strangely enough, today he is playing one of the good guys on Parks and Recreation. Back to my point, though, Lowe is his usual slimy self. At one point, he and Tommy get drunk. Tommy is covered in mud and cow feces, so Lowe hoses him down with gasoline. Now, seems to me this would have been the perfect place to light a match and have Farley do comedic stuff, but nothing comes of it, which is really a shame, as it would have set him up to be a diabolical villain. Instead he does nothing, and that pretty much is what he does for the majority of the film, except for a bumbling attempt at something, I forgot what, but he gets attacked by a guard dog. The only thing he manages to do right is computer fraud, but that scene was so awkward, I had to turn away. Come on Rob Lowe, you can do better than this disjointed performance, script problem or not.

Deer in headlights. On the road, Farley and Spade hit a deer. As can be expected, they put it in their backseat until they can properly dispose of it (they were en route to an appointment). For some reason, the deer comes back to life and not only attacks the two while they are driving, but it totals the car and runs away. I’m guessing this is some kind of comedic effect, but I didn’t laugh. It just didn’t quite seem to fit in with the rest of the film. Now, had that been some bum they hit who came back to life and went berserk, then perhaps that would have made more sense to me.

Calm down. Man, Chris Farley rode that loveable, overactive, fat guy shtick to the grave, didn’t he? As can be seen in this film, it wears thin with some people over time, especially those that Tommy is trying to get to buy brake pads. Once he does calm down, everything is fine, though. Am I saying I didn’t like the way Farley played this character? No, not at all. What I am saying is I would have liked for him to have been a little different that what we have seen from him before.

Tommy Boy is a delightful film that has heart and will make you appreciate the hard work that goes into getting auto parts on the shelves. No need to drag this on any longer, so I’ll get right to it. Should you see this? I think so. Not only is it funny, but the humor is varied and not just fart jokes. The appearance of Dan Aykroyd later on the film is just icing on the cake. Check it out sometime!

4 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 7/3

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on July 3, 2014 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!!!

First off, I want to wish everyone a Happy and safe 4th of July weekend!

Now, let’s travel back to the year 1989.

Keep in mind that superhero films have not had the best success up to this point, but as we settle into the our seats the trailer for Tim Burton’s Batman comes up and we are blown away by what we see! Can’t you just wait for this to hit the big screen!!!

 

 

Has it really been 25 years?!?

 

Under the Tuscan Sun

Posted in Chick Flicks, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , on July 2, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Frances Mayes (Diane Lane) is a San Francisco writer whose seemingly perfect life takes an unexpected turn when she learns that her husband has been cheating on her. The divorce—and the loss of her house to her ex-husband and his much-younger, pregnant new partner—leaves her depressed and unable to write. Her best friend Patti (Sandra Oh), a lesbian who is expecting a child, is beginning to think Frances might never recover. She urges Frances to take an Italian vacation to Tuscany using the ticket she purchased before she became pregnant. At first Frances refuses, but after another depressing day in her gloomy apartment, she decides that it’s a good idea to get away for a while.

In Tuscany, her tour group stops in the small town of Cortona. After wandering through the charming streets, she notices a posting for a villa for sale in Cortona. She rejoins her tour group on the bus, and just outside of town, the bus stops to allow a flock of sheep to cross the road. While they wait, Frances realizes that they’ve stopped directly in front of the very villa that she had seen for sale—something she believes is a sign. She asks the driver to stop and she gets off the bus. Through a series of serendipitous events, she becomes the owner of a lovely yet dilapidated villa in beautiful Tuscany.

Frances begins her new life with the help of a variety of interesting characters and unusual but gentle souls. She hires a crew of Polish immigrants to renovate the house. Over time, Frances also befriends her Italian neighbors and develops relationships with her Polish workers, the realtor who sold her the villa, and Katherine (Lindsay Duncan), an eccentric aging British actress who evokes the mystery and beauty of an Italian film star. Later, she is visited by the now very pregnant Patti, whose partner Grace has left her.

Frances meets and has a brief romantic affair with Marcello (Raoul Bova), but their relationship does not last. She is about to give up on happiness when one of her Polish workers, a teenager named Pawel (Pawel Szajda), and a neighbor’s young daughter come to her for help. Her father does not approve of him, yet they are very much in love and want to get married. Frances persuades the girl’s family to support their love, and the young lovers are soon married at the villa. During the wedding celebration, Frances meets an American writer who is traveling in Tuscany, and their attraction for each other points to a romantic future.

REVIEW:

It was brought to my attention recently that I have a category for “chick flicks”, yet rarely do I review any films that fit in that category. Truth be told, I do try to avoid those films, because they are slit your wrist kind of depressing. However, every now and then a chick flick will come along that actually is more on the feel good side of things. One such film is Under the Tuscan Sun.

What is this about?

After divorcing her cheating husband, Frances Mayes tries to overcome her depression and writer’s block by taking a vacation to Tuscany. Charmed by the location, she impulsively decides to buy a villa there.

What did I like?

Life as we know it. Sometimes things happen in one’s life and you just have to move on, even if it requires a push from your friends. Of everything that happens in this film, this may the most realistic even that happens besides the infidelity and subsequent divorce. For me, with all the perfect dream-like life that comes later in the film, it was nice to get the film started off in reality, and the drift off into another world.

Lady Lane. It has been so long since I’ve seen Diane Lane so anything worthwhile I was starting to forget she could actually act, but this made to remind me that she does indeed have some chops. The raw emotion she displays after her divorce, the fear of what is going to happen with the house she bought on an impulse, and the heartbreak over the guy she randomly picks up on the street in Italy and begins a fling with, all show that this woman is quite the talent. Something that is rare to find with these so-called “actresses” of today, who are nothing more than a somewhat pretty face or hot bod that some casting director picked up off of a street corner one day.

Scenery. The countryside of Tuscany is beyond a gorgeous site to see on film. I can only dream of what it must look like in person. It must be breathtaking! On top of the natural scenery, ladies are sure to enjoy seeing these allegedly attractive Italian (among other nationalities) guys that populate this cast. Sorry fellas, nothing for us really…excluding Diane Lane.

What didn’t I like?

Be a family. One thing I notice throughout the entire film is a recurring them of togetherness. Here we have divorcee Diane Lane and this ragtag group of Portuguese guys helping her with her restore her villa, and the various citizens she has met, and her pregnant lesbian friend who has made the trip all the way from the U.S. It seems to be everyone should have been acting as one big, happy family. It isn’t that they weren’t, but rather than they were just a random group of strangers.

Act your age. I guess here is where I make the prerequisite statement about how Diane Lane hasn’t aged, right? Well, I’m not going to do that. Instead, I want to talk about this actress lady that was hanging around. Was there a point to her, other than to translate some Italian at the beginning? She seemed to me to be such a throw away character. I am still scratching my head about that fountain scene. Maybe if I watch La Dolce Vita it will make more sense. At any rate, the time they give to this woman could have been spent further developing the kids in love, rather than showing bits and pieces here and there. They were actually an interesting storyline, if you ask me. This lady was nothing more than a somewhat colorful character now and then.

Cheat on her? Maybe in the book this is based on, there is some explanation given as to why the husband would cheat on his gorgeous wife. Take a look at Diane Lane, the woman is in her 50s and looks like that. What man in his right mind would cheat on her?!? I really have to wonder. Truthfully, you can’t upgrade much higher, so why would you cause this woman so much pain and suffering. It truly hurt my heart to see her go down in a spiral of depression early on in the film and have to give up the lifestyle in which she was accustomed to go live in some kind of divorcee apartment community.

Under the Tuscan Sun was not meant for my demographic, that is apparent. Still, I found the story to be enjoyable and relished in the fact that this is a chick flick that doesn’t go into man-hating mode, even after the divorce at the beginning. Do I believe this film has issues and could be better? Why yes…yes I do, but those issues are few and minor. Hardly enough to dissuade anyone from giving this a shot. As such, I give this a recommendation, so check it out!

4 out of 5 stars

Transformers: Age of Extinction

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 29, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In a pre-historic time, ancient Transformers detonate the Seed, killing all life on Earth. In the present, an archaeologist named Darcy discovers a dinosaur covered in an unknown metal.

Five years have passed since the Battle of Chicago. The U.S. government has severed its ties with the Autobots and branded them as fugitives. An elite CIA unit called “Cemetery Wind” is formed by Harold Attinger with the intent of hunting down and exterminating the surviving Autobots with the aid of Lockdown, a Transformer bounty hunter. Meanwhile, using data obtained from destroyed Transformers, business tycoon Joshua Joyce and his technology firm Kinetic Solutions Incorporated (KSI) have discovered “Transformium”, the molecularly unstable metal that is the lifeblood of Transformers. Joshua’s prized creation is Galvatron, a Transformer created from the data inside Megatron’s severed head with the aid of a captured Brains.

In rural Texas, struggling robotics inventor Cade Yeager and his friend Lucas Flannery purchase an old semi-truck in hopes of stripping it down and selling the parts to get Cade’s daughter Tessa into college. Cade discovers that the truck is an injured Optimus Prime, and it is not long before Lockdown and Cemetery Wind operatives led by James Savoy storm into the Yeagers’ farm and threaten them. Optimus comes out of hiding to fend off against the operatives while Cade, Tessa, and Lucas are rescued by Tessa’s boyfriend Shane Dyson, an Irish rally racer. They lose the operatives in a lengthy chase in Paris, Texas, but Lucas is killed by Lockdown’s grenade during their escape. Using a drone he took during the raid, Cade discovers that the operatives and KSI are working together. Optimus rallies the remaining Autobots – Bumblebee, Hound, Drift, and Crosshairs – and travel with their new human allies to infiltrate KSI’s headquarters in Chicago. There, Cade, Shane, and Bumblebee discover the firm’s reverse engineering of Transformer technology. Upon discovering that Ratchet has been slain and his head is being melted down, Optimus and the Autobots storm into the headquarters to destroy the laboratory and rescue Brains, but Joshua convinces them that their actions are futile and they are no longer relevant to this planet.

As the Autobots leave the premises, Joshua launches KSI’s prototype Transformers Galvatron and Stinger. Optimus and Galvatron engage in a grueling battle where Optimus realizes that Galvatron is Megatron in a new body. Suddenly, Optimus is blasted from behind by Lockdown, and in the midst of the chaos, he and Tessa are captured and taken into Lockdown’s ship. Aboard the ship, Lockdown explains to Optimus that the Transformers were created by a mysterious alien race known as the “Creators”, which hired him to capture the Autobot leader. As a reward for Optimus’s capture, Attinger’s operatives are given the “Seed”, a bomb that cyberforms any wide area of land if it explodes. Cade, Shane, and the Autobots storm into the ship to rescue Optimus and Tessa; while Bumblebee, Crosshairs, and the humans escape and crash into downtown Chicago, the other Autobots detach the rear section of the ship before it leaves into space. Joshua and his business partners Su Yueming and Darcy Tyril retreat to Beijing, where Attinger hands Joshua the Seed in exchange for a stake in KSI control. The Autobots and their human allies follow them to prevent them from detonating the Seed.

At KSI’s Beijing factory, Galvatron suddenly activates by himself and infects all 50 of the firm’s prototype Transformer soldiers to do his bidding. Realizing the folly of his creations, Joshua betrays Attinger before he, Su, and Darcy take the Seed to Hong Kong. There, the Autobots struggle to protect Joshua and the Seed from Galvatron and his minions, who shoot down the Autobots’ ship. Cade kills Savoy during a fight in an apartment building. Outnumbered and outmatched, Optimus Prime releases a group of legendary knights and leads them back to the city to destroy Galvatron’s army. Lockdown returns to Earth and uses his ship’s magnetic weapon to pull anything metal into his ship, in an effort to recapture Optimus. Optimus destroys the weapon and engages in battle with Lockdown before killing Attinger to save Cade. Lockdown grabs Optimus’s sword and impales him, but the combined efforts of Bumblebee, Cade, Tessa, and Shane distract the bounty hunter before Optimus stabs him in the chest and slices his head in half. Galvatron retreats, vowing to battle Optimus another day. With Lockdown dead and Cemetery Wind dissolved, Optimus sets the Dinobots free before flying into space with the Seed, sending a message to the Creators.

REVIEW:

If you’ve been keeping up with how Transformers: Age of Extinction has been doing with the critics, then you know they haven’t been kind. The average movie-goer, also hasn’t really had the nicest of things to say about this flick, either. This brings about the big question. What will I, a Transformers fanboy, have to say about what I just saw?

What is this about?

In the fourth CGI-fueled Transformers actioner, Cade Yeager is a father trying to protect his daughter, Tessa, from the perils of the outside world. Cade views Tessa’s beau, Shane, as one of the leading dangers, but the lad soon redeems himself.

What did I like?

New blood. Thank goodness, Shia LeBeouf and his constant spouting of “no, no, no!” are gone. In his place is Mark Wahlberg, his daughter Nicola Pelts (you may recall her from that horrendous The Last Airbender) and her boyfriend, Jack Reynor. The three of them, once they get over the family and dating issues, actually make a great team and a solid addition to this franchise, if not an upgrade from what we’ve been force fed in the previous films. Also, with Megatron gone, it is nice to have a new villain after the Autobots in Lockdown and the prerequisite new Autobots in Hound, Drift, and Crosshairs.

Dinobots. While I was watching my Denver Broncos get the taste smacked out of their mouths on Super Bowl Sunday, I was patiently awaiting the first trailer for this film. It wasn’t much, but it did feature Optimus Prime riding Grimlock (note- they never specifically call him Grimlock, or them Dinobots). Say what you will about what you think of this franchise, that was something that awoke the 10 yr old kid that would wake up and watch Saturday morning cartoons. That same feeling occurs when you finally see it happen on the big screen. Hopefully, Michael Bay, who said when he was making the first Transformers that he would never use the Dinobots, takes note of how well received these magnificent creatures are and will bring them back for more.

True form. Transformers: Dark of the Moon finally gave Optimus Prime his trailer, but those of that grew up with Prime still have a soft spot for what he is supposed to look like, which is a flat faced semi. For the first however long it is that we see Optimus, he is in the form that we all know and love…sort of. He’s all beaten down and rusted, but beggars can’t be choosy and, since Michael Bay is an ass and wants to ruin all of our childhoods, this is all we’re going to get.

Trilogy? Judging by how this picture ends, it seems as if they are setting up for something bigger down the road. A trilogy, perhaps? I’m not sure how I feel about that, but one more wouldn’t hurt, if for no other reason than to up the ante from this one, and there is a cliffhanger ending that needs to be resolved!

What didn’t I like?

Length and language. With a runtime of 2 hours and 45 minutes, this film takes everything you have and more. There is no reason for this film to be this long, but Michael Bay just has to show us his hard-on for the military and make sure they get their time in the spotlight, as well as plenty of explosive scenes that tend to drag on to the point that you are bored with them. I dare say a good 30-45 minutes could have been cut out of this flick and it would have been just fine. Also, as much as they want to keep advertising this as a darker, more mature film, the fact remains that kids are going to see it, so why all the cursing? Even Bumblebee, through the use of his radio (didn’t they fix his voice already?). slips a four-letter word out, but it is bleeped. I’m not usually one to complain about language, but this just was out of place and uncalled for.

Too many cooks in the kitchen. Apparently, filmmakers, or studio execs, rather, haven’t gotten the memo that there is such a thing as too many villains in a film. Here we have another case of that. First we have the bounty hunter, Lockdown, who should have been the main villain, and is treated as such in parts. Next, there is Kelsey Grammer’s CIA or FBI agent character, who apparently thinks that the Transformers are the worst thing ever, and that the events of the previous film were solely on their shoulders. Somehow, the human involvement is forgotten. Lastly, there is Galvatron, who I can’t say much about, for risk of spoiling anything, but if you know anything about G1 Transformers, then you have an idea of who he is. Now, Grammer’s character gets the majority of the antagonist role, followed by Lockdown, and Galvatron is forgotten, except for when he actually puts his plan into motion, but by that time it just seems like he is just an inconvenience and a distraction whose main purpose is to create and army so they can use more CG. Seriously, they should have focused on Grammer and Lockdown, and maybe had a post-credits scene involving Galvatron coming to “life” instead of being a mindless drone. That way, those two characters could have been more fully realized and Galvatron could be the character that deserves to be, rather than a shoehorned villain, a la Venom in Spider-Man 3.

Only human. I think I have said this for 3 of the 4 films in this franchise. Ironically, the one I didn’t say this about is the one that gets criticized for giving the robots actual characterizations. You just can’t win for losing, I guess. At any rate, this film is entirely too obsessed with giving us a human story. The audience goes in wanting to see a flick about giant robots, not some drama about a dad and his daughter and the boyfriend who is some kind of Irish stunt car driver. Bay needs to learn that the audience for this film could care less about the humans. True, you get a star like Mark Wahlberg, you’re not going to have him do nothing, but this is a film that needed to be more about the Transformers. Speaking of giant robots, I am not sure whether this was intentional, but I have to give it up for naming Wahlberg’s character Yeager. What’s so special about that? Well, that’s the name of the giant robots in Pacific Rim. Suddenly, yesterday, a sequel was announced to that film. Hmmm…

Primal attitude. Continuing with Michael Bay raping and pillaging all that is good and holy out of the Transformers universe, he has taken Optimus Prime and turned him into a bitter shell of himself, rather than the unflappable, John Wayne-esque leader he is best known for. Given the circumstances, I can understand a little change, but he should have reverted back to his normal self. Also, Bumblebee seems to have problems keeping his emotions in check with this one. That fancy new Transformers: Prime inspired face mask probably had something to do with is. Keeping with the attitude, I loved the design of Crosshairs, but why was he so full of prejudice towards the humans? Hound, who looks like he was designed more like Bulkhead. Finally, there is Drift, the samurai. Love that design, but hate that they made him such a stereotype, complete with broken English. Did Ken Watanabe not read the script before he signed on for this?!?

It is obvious that Bay and his cronies did a little more research into the Transformers universe. Why else would there be so many obvious references and inspirations from Transformers: Animated and Transformers: Prime. However, that does not mean that they have made Transformers : Age of Extinction the Transformers film we have all been waiting to see. Even with the “Dinobots” making an appearance and the new Transformers antagonist, Lockdown, there is just too much wrong with this film for it to be respectable. It is no wonder everyone is hating on this film. However, I’m not one of those that jumps on the bandwagon and hates a film for no good reason. I actually liked parts of this film and think that it is worth watching. I recommend you at least give it a shot, knowing how flawed it is. This is a summer action flick, if you will remember. Check it out and enjoy!

4 out of 5 stars

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