Illegal

Posted in Classics, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , on September 14, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Victor Scott (Edward G. Robinson) is a District Attorney with a drive to win every case. He is assisted by attorney Ellen Miles (Nina Foch) who is not quite as relentless, but is devoted to her D.A. boss. After Scott discovers that a man he sent to his death is innocent, he falls into an alcoholic haze, is arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct, and determines to defend another incarcerated man. This leads to a new career as a defense attorney.

Scott ends up defending an associate of the city’s crime boss, a man he refused to work for earlier due to the fact that “…no one would testify against you; you own the people who work for you.” This, in turn, leads him into direct confrontation with the very office he used to head.

Ellen Miles kills her husband in self-defense. Scott is determined to clear her, as there are no witnesses. There is an ongoing leak between the D.A.’s office and the crime boss. The leak turns out to be Ellen’s husband, Ray Borden. The new D.A., not knowing this, determines that Ellen herself is the leak and that she murdered her husband when found out.

REVIEW:

Before I begin this review about Illegal, can I just mention how hard it is to find anything about this film on-line? Seriously, type “illegal” or “illegal movie” in and this is not the first thing to come up. There are some rather, shall we say, questionable websites that popped up in my search. Obviously, I did find what I was looking for, and that is this film noir that I’m watching at this late hour.

What is this about?

Ambitious D.A. Victor Scott zealously prosecutes Ed Clary for a woman’s murder. But as Clary walks “the last mile” to the electric chair, Scott receives evidence that exonerates the condemned man. Realizing that he’s made a terrible mistake he tries to stop the execution but is too late. Humbled by his grievous misjudgement, Scott resigns as a prosecutor. Entering private practice, he employs the same cunning that made his reputation and draws the attention of mob kingpin, Frank Garland. The mobster succeeds in bribing Scott into representing one of his stooges on a murder rap and Scott, in a grand display of courtroom theatrics, wins the case. But soon Scott finds himself embroiled in dirty mob politics. The situation becomes intolerable when his former protege in the D.A.’s office is charged with a murder that seems to implicate her as an informant to the Garland mob. Can Victor defend the woman he secretly loves and also keep his life?

What did I like?

Not so fast, pretty boy. Today’s leading men, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, Denzel Washington, etc. are all “pretty boys”, if you will notice. Back in the day, though, audiences were not so hung up on looks or maybe it was the fact that they were more interested in the actor’s talent. This explains how a hideous troll like Edward G. Robinson had such a tremendous career. He can really act, and not just as  the shifty gangster types he normally was cast as, but he was allowed to shine in roles likes this where he gets to really flex his acting chops.

Gray matter. Expectations can be a tricky thing. I went into this film, expecting a morally black and white film, as can be expected when dealing with the law. However, this is more about lawyers, who are known to be just as crooked, if not more so than gangsters. I don’t need to tell you that this made for quite the interesting shades of gray. Robinson is the good guy, but he’s still a bad guy, if that makes any sense.

Introducing…Jayne Mansfield. A real treat makes an appearance in a rather small, but important role. Not quite a sex symbol, Jayne Mansfield appears in one of her first movie roles. It is well documented that I love, love, LOVE Jayne, but I had no idea she was in this flick until she popped up, and even then I had to do a double take (not counting that her name was in the opening credits). I believe this is her best serious performance. She’s using her real voice, not the manufactured airehead voice that she would use after she rose to fame, which makes this role much more subdued and in step with the rest of the cast. Can you imagine later Jayne in this film? Trainwreck!!!

What didn’t I like?

Theatrics. Robinson’s courtroom theatrics were interesting and are surely the reason he was such a good attorney. If Law and Order (and its many spinoffs) used some of that, maybe I’d actually watch. For me, though, while I enjoyed his antics, I couldn’t help but think they were a bit much for a film that is this serious. It was almost like watching Night Court instead.

Mob tactics. Guess what? The mob is in this film showing their might and doing mob type enforcing stuffs. What’s the problem with that? Well, it just doesn’t seem like this version of the mob is as intimidating as they could and should be, at least to me. They come off as just some guys in suits with resources, rather than a highly connected and efficient group of hitmen, thieves, and assassins.

Hugh. Token 50s asshole Hugh Marlowe once again plays the same role he always played. I know this guy had his fans, but I’m not one of them. True, his film personal worked for how this film played out, there still could have been a better way to utilize his talents. I may just be letting my disdain for this guy cloud my judgment, though.

When the dust clears, Illegal turned out to be a really, really good film noir that I’m glad YouTube recommended, otherwise I would have never heard of, let alone seen. The script is tight, especially for this era of film, the acting is top-notch, and the pacing is just that right mix of snappy, yet slow enough for the audience to keep up with everything. There are few flaws here and there, but they are few and far between. I highly recommend this as a film you should see before you die!

5 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 9/11

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

It’s Trailer Thursday!

I’m currently working on a Halloween project for work. While perusing through various Halloween YouTube videos, I came across the trailer for a film I had never heard of but, if this trailer is any indication, I may have to watch just because of how awful it looks. What do you think of A Night to Dismember?

 

 

side note: to my knowledge, this is a real trailer, except for the words that appear near the end. don’t you just love that it comes from a vhs tape? I miss those some days.

The Haunted Mansion

Posted in Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 10, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Jim Evers is a workaholic real estate agent whose continuous pursuit for new deals leaves very little time with his family. He misses his wedding anniversary with his wife Sara, but to make amends, suggesting going on vacation to a nearby lake. Beforehand, Sara is contacted by the occupants of Gracey Manor, located in the Louisiana bayou. Eager to make a deal, Jim drags Sara and his children Megan and Michael to the mansion. They meet its owner Edward Gracey, his stern butler Ramsley, and other staff members Emma and Ezra. When a storm floods the nearby river, Gracey allows the Evers to stay the night, though everyone save Jim is unhappy with the idea. Ramsley takes Jim down to the library to have a talk with Gracey, but while he waits, Jim gets trapped in a secret passage.

Megan and Michael encounter a spectral orb and follow it up to the attic, where they find a portrait of a woman resembling Sara. Sara herself talks with Gracey in the library, who explains his grandfather hanged himself after his lover Elizabeth Henshaw poisoned herself despite their plans to wed. Jim meets Madame Leota, a gypsy woman’s ghost whose head is encased in a crystal ball, but she scares him away. Jim runs into his children, Emma and Ezra, and returns to Madame Leota for answers about Elizabeth’s likeness to Sara. It is revealed everyone in the mansion are ghosts, cursed a century ago by Gracey and Elizabeth’s suicides and can only go to the afterlife when they are reunited, and Gracey believes Sara is his lover back from the dead. Madame Leota sends the Evers off to the mansion’s expansive cemetery to find a key which will reveal the truth behind Elizabeth’s unusual death. Jim and Megan venture into a crypt where they find the key, but disturb its undead residents. They escape with help from Michael. Madame Leota then instructs them to find a trunk in the attic, Jim unlocking it to find a letter written by Elizabeth to Gracey, revealing she wanted to marry, revealing she was murdered. Ramsley suddenly appears, revealing he poisoned Elizabeth to prevent Gracey from abandoning his heritage. To hide the truth, he traps the children in a trunk and throws Jim out of the house, enchanting the house so Jim cannot break in.

Gracey and Sara enter the ballroom. He asks Sarah if she can recognize him which confuses her. Desperate, he insists to Sara that she is his beloved Elizabeth from long ago. The room fills with ballroom dancing ghosts of the past which causes Sara to flee from the room. As she runs up the stairs Gracey reveals his true ghost self to Sara begging her to understand and that she really is Elizabeth and that they can finally be together. She shouts that she is not Elizabeth and slams the door in his face. Gracey begins to believe that Sarah can’t Elizabeth because she doesn’t remember him. But Ramsley insists that it is her and that in time she will remember. Ramsley tells Sara to get ready for her wedding to Gracey. Sarah refuses but Ramsley blackmails her into marrying Gracey in return for her children’s safety. Encouraged by Madame Leota, Jim drives his car through the mansion’s conservatory, rescues his children, and stops Sara and Gracey’s wedding ceremony where he gives Elizabeth’s real letter to Gracey. Gracey confronts Ramsley, who rages at his master’s apparent selfishness for loving Elizabeth, and summons wraiths to kill the group. However, a fiery dragon emerges from the ballroom fireplace and drags Ramsley down to hell for eternal damnation for his crimes. Sara suddenly collapses, having been poisoned by Ramsley during the wedding, only for the spectral orb encountered by the children to appear and possess Sara, revealed to be Elizabeth’s ghost. Elizabeth and Gracey reunite, and Sara is revived. With the curse lifted, Gracey gives the Evers the mansion’s deed and departs to the afterlife with Elizabeth, Emma, Ezra, and the other ghosts.

The Evers head off on a proper vacation, accompanied by Madame Leota, and four singing busts strapped to the back of their car. In a post-credits scene, Madame Leota bids farewell to the audience, inviting them to join the dead using dialogue from the Disneyland attraction.

REVIEW:

Anyone that has ever been to Disneyworld, or knows anything about Disney, is at least somewhat familiar with the fact that this film The Haunted Mansion, much in the same vein as the first Pirates of the Caribbean was an attempt to bring the ride to life on the big screen. However, it wasn’t the huge success that some assumed it would be, but why is that, besides not have a mega budget?

What is this about?

When Jim Evers, his wife and kids encounter a ghost while visiting a haunted house during a job interview, they get a crash course in family values.

What did I like?

Tragic story. Well, we can’t have a big haunted house without some tragic history, right? In this case, the well to do owner of the house has his beloved taken away from him through an apparent suicide that, from what I can tell, closed to door for all spirits to pass through on those grounds. Truly this is a tragic love story. Imagine if Scarlett O’Hara hung herself and Rhett Butler was heartbroken for centuries about her death. So much so, that he stays and searches for his lost love to be reincarnated.

Kneel before Stamp. Terrence Stamp can really play the stoic villain. Some forget that he was the iconic villain in Superman II, General Zod. This character calls for him to be a proper British butler and also a delusional ghost who takes his duties too far, I’ll leave it at that. This film isn’t known for being scary, but Stamp makes an attempt to add in a bit of haunting that it severely needed.

Ghostly appearance. I was gearing up to complain about the way the special effects in this film look a bit…unkept, but then I noticed something about the ghosts. They have the appearance reminiscent of the ride. Say what you will about this film, at least it is making an attempt to stick to its roots. Can the other films based on rides say that? Ok…maybe Tower of Terror, but that was specifically made as an advertisement for that particular ride. I have to tip my hat to the effects department for being cheap and having it work.

What didn’t I like?

Haunted? I know that this is a Disney film about a Disney ride and all that jazz, but should something that has the word haunted in the title, actually make you feel a little bit scared in a place or two? I’m not talking full-on horror, obviously (though with the stuff that comes out today, this might actually fit in), but rather something more along the lines of a jump scare here and there. Terrence Stamp was doing a good job with his random appearances scaring the family, but that wasn’t toward the audience. I would have liked for there to have been something more haunting about this haunted mansion.

Poker head. Jennifer Tilly has had quite the interesting career. However, these days she is known mostly for her distinctive voice. Can you imagine a film starring her and Joey Lauren Adams? Oh…and get Macy Gray to do the soundtrack! Ugh! That would kill us all! Anyway, Tilly’s voice is not the only thing that gets her noticed, as she has quite the attractive body. I don’t need to tell you that there are a couple of things that can’t help but be noticed. With that said, why take away Jennifer’s body and make her a head in a jar? Seems to me that her character could have conjured up a body to help with the ongoings in the climax, rather than stay in the crashed car trapped by an airbag. I’m just saying!

Eddie, oh Eddie. Many wonder where it is that we can pinpoint the moment that Eddie Murphy’s career started to take a downward spiral and he lost his way, so to speak. This is often considered that point. As far as performances go, yeah, this isn’t Murphy on the top of his game. I’ve long said that he belongs making comedies where he can just let f-bombs fly left and right. Since this is a family picture, he had to struggle to say “crap”. Personally, I don’t think this was the film for Murphy. He did an ok job, but someone more used to doing films like this would have fit in more.

The Haunted Mansion is one of those films that you forget exists because if so overshadowed by the success of Captain Jack Sparrow and the Pirates franchise. Still, there were people who went out to see this. No, it wasn’t a huge blockbuster, but it did earn double the budget back. Will this make anyone want to go ride the ride? Perhaps, but I don’t see anyone having nightmares after watching the picture. Do I recommend this? With Halloween coming up next month, I am sure  you’re looking for something to show early on in your party. Well, that’s what this is for! That and background noise. Use in good health!

3 out of 5 stars

Jersey Girl

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on September 8, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Oliver “Ollie” Trinké (Ben Affleck) is a powerful media publicist in New York City whose wife, Gertrude (Jennifer Lopez), dies during childbirth. To avoid his grief, he buries himself in his work and ignores his new daughter, Gertie, while his father, Bart (George Carlin), takes a month off from work to care for her, but returns so that his son is forced to live up to his responsibility as a parent. Under the stress of a botched diaper change and a baby who will not stop crying, Ollie trashes his client Will Smith for his soon-to-be released film Independence Day in front of assembled reporters. The outburst costs him his job, so he moves in with his father in New Jersey. He eventually apologizes for ignoring his daughter, and attributes his public outburst to his grief.

Blacklisted by all of New York City’s public relations firms, Ollie has to work as a civil servant in the borough where he now lives with his father. Seven years later, Gertie (Raquel Castro), now in elementary school, often coaxes him to rent films to watch. At the video store, they meet Maya (Liv Tyler), one of the store’s clerks, whose uninhibited probing into Ollie’s love life almost leads to them having casual sex. She soon becomes a part of their lives.

As part of his job in the borough, Ollie speaks to a group of outraged citizens to win over their approval for a major public works project that will temporarily close a street in the neighborhood. His successful and enjoyable interaction with the crowd leads him to realize how much he misses the public relations work. He contacts Arthur (Jason Biggs), his one-time protégé, who sets up a promising interview.

The prospect of moving to New York creates tension among Ollie, Gertie, Bart, and Maya, especially when he says that his interview is on the same day as Gertie’s school talent show. She yells at him, saying she hates him and that she wishes he had died instead of her mom. He claims he hates her right back, and says she and Gertrude took his life away and he just wants it back. He immediately regrets it and tries to apologize, but the damage is done and she pushes him away and runs to her room, crying. A few days later he and Gertie finally patch things up, and she accepts the fact that they will be moving to New York. While waiting to be interviewed, he has a chance encounter with Will Smith (playing himself), the man he trashed at his public outburst years before. Smith has no idea who Ollie is, but the two spark a conversation about work and children.

Ollie is able to make it to Gertie’s Sweeney Todd performance at the last moment. The film ends with him, Gertie, Bart, Maya, and the rest celebrating at the bar. He and Maya hint at possible feelings for each other before being interrupted by Gertie. He holds her and says that they are staying in New Jersey because he did not take the job. She asks why he did so if he loved it so much. He says that he thought he did, but he loved his new life more because being a father to her was the only thing that he was ever really good at.

REVIEW:

One of the hottest directors of the mid 90s and early 2000s was Kevin Smith. He brought something new to films that hadn’t really been seen since the days of Woody Allen, a love for his hometown (or state in this case) and a passion to show real people problems not some exaggerated lifestyle like we normally see in movies and television. All this is not to even mention Jay and Silent Bob! However, as stated in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Smith couldn’t rely on “dick and fart jokes the rest of his life.” Jersey Girl was his first foray outside of the ViewAskew universe. Was it worth the trip, or should Smith go back and stay there?

What is this about?

When a music publicist suddenly faces single fatherhood and a defunct career, only a new love and his daughter’s courage can help him bounce back.

What did I like?

The feels. Remember Up? Almost everyone I know (male and female) have breakdowns watching the first 20 minutes or so of that film. You know the part where they show Ellie growing up and eventually passing away. That same sucker punch to the gut happens in the beginning of this film. We get to know a little bit about Jennifer Lopez’s character, how she met Ben Affleck’s characters, their relationship, etc. Then, tragedy strikes! I guess if you consider Kevin Smith’s other films up to this date, he needed to do something to have people take him and this film seriously. If that is the case, then this is a great way to start!

With a little help from your friends. In every Kevin Smith movie, with the exception of Red State and perhaps this new one he has coming out soon, you can be guaranteed to see certain actors because of his friendship with them. Ben Affleck and Jason Lee are the most closely associated with this phenomenon, if you will. Lee has a small cameo in here (with Matt Damon), but this is the second film where Affleck is the star. The other being Chasing Amy and a case could be made for Dogma. Isn’t it good to have friends like Affleck, Damon, Lee (who was just starting My Name is Earl when this was filmed, I believe), and can call in names like Jason Biggs, George Carlin, Jennifer Lopez, dig up Lady Aberlin from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, and somehow land Will Smith in your film?

Meat pies. One of the reason I knew anything about Sweeney Todd when it was released, was because of this movie. The fact that an 8-year-old girl knows about this musical and wants to perform it on stage was awesome. Never mind the fact that it was, as best as I could tell, a Catholic school. Now, try getting away with that today and they’ll have the parental units tarred and feathered, but when everyone is doing “Memory” from Cats, you’re more than happy to make an exception. I’m sure glad Smith decided to not make us listen to all those renditions. I’m not sure the audience could take it!

What didn’t I like?

Liv a little. Liv Tyler is one of the most beautiful and talented actresses around, even if she can’t sing. You would think that since she’s the new found love interest for Affleck’s character, she’s have been given something juicy to do, but that is not to be the case. She has one “typical female” scene, as a friend called it when we saw this years ago, where she spews out a string of emotions toward Affleck. Other than that, she is mostly used as a female presence to replace Jennifer Lopez.

Cameo. The whole reason for the fall of Affleck’s character (he loses his job and has to move in with his father in New Jersey) is because he has a complete blow up in front of a room full of impatient, petulant reporters clamoring for Will Smith to show. Near the film’s conclusion, Smith makes a cameo appearance in a waiting room. This seems like it would be the perfect place for a confrontation, with vitriol coming from one side or the other. Instead, it just turns into a couple of guys talking about their kids, which isn’t bad, especially because of what happens because of their little talk. It just seems that there should have been some kind of conflict there, especially from Affleck, but maybe that’s just me wishing for a fight.

He’s just not ready. Before this, Chasing Amy was Kevin Smith’s most “mature” picture, and even that has ass and titty jokes, not to mention all the juvenile ways it went about discussing the varying acts of love making as a lesbian. That point aside, there is obvious growth between then and this film, but I still don’t think Smith is ready to make these serious pictures. The man obviously knows how to tell a story, even one that tugs at your heartstrings, but the whole time I was watching this I couldn’t help but think that with all the comedy, he was holding back something vulgar or obscene. A couple more films like this, though, and Smith should be ready to be taken seriously.

Here’s a tidbit of trivia for you all. The titular Jersey Girl, played by Raquel Castro, appeared on a season of The Voice. If I’m not mistaken, she was chosen for Christina Aguillera’s team, but didn’t make it to the final. So see, even though critics panned this film almost as much as Gigli (I guess they had something against Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez), it hasn’t hurt anyone. Hell, Affleck has gone to become one of the best directors around today and is about to be Batman, so there you go. As far as this film goes, for me it is one of those films you never forget. Is it the best? No, but in the same breath I have to say that it is far from as bad as the critics want you to believe. I enjoy this film everytime I watch it and recommend that you give it a shot sometime.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

Can’t Buy Me Love

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Romantic with tags , , , , , , on September 7, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Ronald Miller (Dempsey) is a typical high school nerd living in Arizona. He has spent all summer mowing lawns to save up for a telescope. However, at an opportune moment he makes a deal with popular cheerleader Cynthia “Cindy” Mancini (Peterson) to “rent” her for $1,000. Cindy borrowed a suede jacket that belonged to her mother and needs to replace it after Quint (Cort McGown) spilled red wine on Cindy at a party. Having few options except telling her mom the truth, she reluctantly agrees to help him look “cool” by pretending to be his girlfriend for a month even though she already has a boyfriend named Bobby who is away at college. Both agree never to reveal their financial arrangement.

Ronald then trades his nerdy-but-loyal friends for the shallow popular students and undergoes a complete clothing and hair makeover at Cindy’s direction. Over the course of the month, they discover each other’s individuality and are drawn together. Cindy soon starts to genuinely like Ronald. She opens up to him as he washes her car at her house, she goes inside to get a poem that she’d written that meant the world to her and lets him read it. She gets to know him better as he reveals his interests in astronomy and space travel. They gaze at the moon and he tells her how when they are their parents age “people will be working there and living there… maybe even us.” On the last date which Ronald has ‘paid’ for Cindy then hints that she’d like to kiss Ronald, signifying that she has real feelings for him, but he misunderstands and assumes she wants to talk about their breakup. They dramatically “break up” in front of a crowd at school but Ronald takes things too far and says some hurtful things about Cindy in front of their friends. She becomes cool and distant but warns him that popularity is hard work and he needs to make sure he “stays [him]self”. The next day, Cindy appears disgusted with Ronald when she sees him behaving arrogantly at school and becomes jealous when she sees him flirting with her best friends Barbara and Patty, who he later takes out on dates.

Ronald continues playing “cool” by hanging out with the jocks and hot chicks. He takes Patty to a dance at school, where he performs a dance he learned from the African Culture channel on television—he mistakenly believed to be watching American Bandstand. At first the other kids are mystified but they soon join in and Ronald’s new ‘trendy’ dancing makes him the most popular guy in school. On Halloween night, he and some other boys drive to the house of Kenneth (Courtney Gains), one of Ronald’s friends and the jocks test his loyalty by coercing him to hurl dog feces at Kenneth’s house. Kenneth is lying in wait and catches Ronald but lets him go before his dad can call the police and ignores Ronald the next day at school.

At a New Year’s Eve party Ronald gets drunk, goes into the bathroom with a girl and has sex with her. Cindy walks by and hears Ronald reciting to this girl the very poem that she (Cindy) had written. She’s completely devastated, so she starts drinking heavily. Later, as a surprise Bobby (Cindy’s boyfriend) shows up at the party from the University of Iowa as he still has strong ties with most of the athletes. After he learns about her relationship with Ronald through a few of the athletes, Cindy is brutally dumped in front of her friends. In anger and frustration, she tells the party-goers the truth about her relationship with Ronald and his “cool” pretenses. She scolds her friends for falling for his act and for being “a bunch of followers.”

“Our little plan worked, didn’t it Ronald?” Cindy says as she squashes his popularity—and places Ronald at the bottom rung of the high school social order. The ‘jocks’ once again tease him and throw food at him— but the nerdy crowd has abandoned him as well. He is distressed at being socially ostracized and his attempts to reconcile with both Cindy and Kenneth are rebuffed.

However, a moment comes to redeem himself when he defends his best friend Kenneth against the onslaught of Quint. Ronald points out that they were all friends at one time. When they were nine, Quint had fallen out of their tree house and broken his arm, they carried him twelve blocks to the hospital as he cried all the way. He tells them that the cool/nerd dynamic is “all bullshit, it’s tough enough just being yourself.” and walks away. Quint and Kenneth shake hands and the whole school applaud.

Cindy recognizes Ronald’s worth after that and the two reconcile when she decides to hop on the back of his riding lawn mower instead of hanging out with her popular friends. He asks her to prom and the two kiss as the title song plays. Closing credits roll while the two of them ride off into the sunset on the lawn mower.

REVIEW:

So, raise your hand if when you saw the title Can’t Buy Me Love, you started singing the Beatles’ song. Don’t be ashamed, I know I did, much to the chagrin of my neighbors. Ladies, I know a good chunk of you watch Grey’s Anatomy and are head over heels in love with Patrick Dempsey, “McDreamy”, is it? Well, here is your chance to see him in one of his younger roles. Aside from that, what is that has people so enamored with this film, I wonder?

What is this about?

Ronald Miller is tired of being a nerd, and makes a deal with one of the most popular girls in school to help him break into the “cool” clic. He offers her a thousand dollars to pretend to be his girlfriend for a month. It succeeds, but he soon learns that the price of popularity may be higher than he expected.

What did I like?

Good Samaritan. There’s an old saying that goes, “nice guys finish last.” Watching the early parts of this film, you’d think that wasn’t just a saying, but a law equal to Newton’s laws of physics or the law of gravity. However, everything turns around for our star when he does a good deed for the girl of his dreams. I’m actually a little jealous.  I had plenty of crushes in high school and did good deeds for them all the time (still doing so for a few), but did I ever get the chance to date them? Nope! Oh well, c’est la vie. Movie magic is alive and well with this one, folks.

Win them over. Back in the day, there used to be talk shows on during the day, some classy and others…not so much. A frequent topic of the latter was how in the years since high school, someone can change from geek to chic. One of my good friends from high school and college actually managed to do this, so it does happen. However, that’s over the span of years, not the course of a few days. It takes some real talent to win over the jocks and cheerleaders the way Dempsey does, especially coming from the nerd “class.”

There was a time… Growing up as a military brat, I didn’t grow up with the same group of friends, so I cannot relate. However, many of my friends did have that experience and share their tales of how people they knew at one time changed as the years went by and they became interested in different things. It is just a natural part of growing up. I am glad that this film touched on the topic, if ever so briefly, though. Chances are any bullies, mean girls, etc., that torture today’s juveniles actually were their friend not that long ago.

What didn’t I like?

Superjock returns. We have a senior uber hottie who won’t give any of the boys at the school the time of day. Surely, there has to be a man somewhere for her, right? Of course, it is the star jock that graduated last year and went on to the big school (Iowa in this case), leaving her longing for him to return, especially since he doesn’t make it back for the holidays. When he does come back, it sets up perfectly for a showdown with our made over nerd antagonist. However, that confrontation never happens, as all it results in is the inevitable break up between jock and hottie. As an audience member, you sort of feel short-changed, but at the same time, you don’t. Superjock was never developed as a character, just mentioned here and there and a brief TV interview in the opening scenes.

Prostitution. This is one of those films that could not be made today. Not only because of the different attitude of society, but because, unless I’m mistaken, paying for someone to be your girlfriend for a month, is basically prostitution, which is illegal (in most states). Had this been blackmail, that would have been a more believable offense, for lack of a better term. Spending $1000 on a girl who won’t give you the time of day, though. That just seems a bit much, especially since it cost him the telescope he had saved up all summer for.

Break up. After the month long indentured servitude ends, there is a break up that occurs. Of course, since the relationship is fake, so is the break up. So, what is my problem with that little scenario? Nothing with the scene, but rather the fact that we get the sense that something more was meant to happen. It was as if Dempsey’s character was doing it just for fun, but Amanda Peterson’s character was a bit more invested. Perhaps it was some of the low blows he threw at her, I couldn’t tell you. I just know that I wasn’t satisfied with how it all played out.

As far as cheesy teen romantic comedies from the 80s go, Can’t Buy Me Love is actually pretty decent. However, with that being said, in comparison with other films in the same vein, it falls flat. I felt that it was making an attempt to be more serious than it had any business being, but at the same time, as one review said, “…all it truly wants is to be popular, just like the other kids’ movies, so it sells off its originality.” Still, this somehow manages to keep it charm, even after all these years. Perhaps it is all the love for Patrick Dempsey? Maybe the fact that a very young Seth Green appears? Who knows, really? Do I recommend this? I have to say only if you’re a fan of 80s romantic comedies. Otherwise this is just going to trudge along, as it did for me. There are better rom-coms out there to be viewed.

3 out of 5 stars

Revisited: Undercover Brother

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 6, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film begins with a back story of how black culture’s popularity with the American public began to decline in the 1980s, when style and originality began to lose appeal in the public eye due to the persistent efforts of “The Man” (Robert Trumbull), a powerful Caucasian man in control of a secret organization that seeks to undermine the African-American community as well as the cultures of other minorities. The Man is infuriated that Gen. Warren Boutwell (Billy Dee Williams), a U.S. Army general based on Colin Powell, is considering running for president, and his lackey Mr. Feather (Chris Kattan) informs him of a mind control drug which The Man uses to make Boutwell abort his plans and instead open a fried chicken franchise. The B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D., a secret organization that battles The Man’s influence, determines The Man is behind Boutwell’s change of heart, and recruits a freelance agent named Undercover Brother (Eddie Griffin) to aid them.

Undercover Brother joins B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D. which is made up of the Chief (Chi McBride), Conspiracy Brother (Dave Chappelle), Smart Brother (Gary Anthony Williams), Sistah Girl (Aunjanue Ellis), and Lance (Neil Patrick Harris), an intern who is the only white man in the organization due to affirmative action. Undercover Brother goes undercover as a new employee at a cigarette company owned by The Man, where Mr. Feather discovers his identity. He deploys a secret weapon that he calls “Black Man’s Kryptonite”, an attractive assassin named White She-Devil (Denise Richards). Posing as another new employee, she and Undercover Brother start dating, and she begins to make him do stereotypical “white” things, such as buying corduroy and khaki clothes, singing karaoke, and adopting a silly set of euphemisms. Meanwhile, The Man distributes his mind control drug through Boutwell’s fried chicken, infecting other black celebrities and making them act white.

Concerned with Undercover Brother’s unusual behavior, Sistah Girl attacks White She-Devil and convinces Undercover Brother to return to the fight. White-She-Devil turns on her own henchmen to save the two, revealing she has fallen in love with Undercover Brother. They return to the B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D., where Smart Brother questions White She-Devil about The Man and Lance is officially made part of the group when he declares his desire to abolish bigotry after watching Roots. The group heads to an awards gala after they find out that James Brown is The Man’s next target. Mr. Feather kidnaps Brown and takes him to The Man’s base. B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D. secures an antidote for the mind control drug and follows via a transmitter placed on Brown, infiltrating the base posing as a cleaning crew, to rescue Brown and a mysterious “Candidate” that The Man plans to use to land a crushing blow to black culture.

Mr. Feather prepares to administer the drug to Brown and present him as a trophy to The Man, and Brown reveals himself as Undercover Brother in disguise. Mr. Feather sends his henchmen after B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D., who discover the Candidate is Boutwell, and is ordered by Mr. Feather to kill Undercover Brother. In the fighting, Conspiracy Brother accidentally begins the building’s self-destruct sequence. The B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D. cures Boutwell and evacuate him from the building while Undercover Brother chases Mr. Feather to the roof. The Man’s helicopter circles overhead and leaves, The Man abandoning Mr. Feather for failing him. Mr. Feather jumps onto the helicopter’s landing gear as it flies away, and Undercover Brother uses his afro picks to impale Mr. Feather in the buttocks, causing him to fall into the water where he is eaten by a shark. However, The Man escapes. Undercover Brother survives the building’s self-destruct by leaping off the building and using his wide pant legs as parachutes. He and Sistah Girl kiss and leave the island, the world at peace.

REVIEW:

I didn’t know this, but apparently there was an internet cartoon that was the inspiration for Undercover Brother. Strangely enough, if you try to look it up, most of the results that pop up are for this underrated cult film. The question is, what is it that scared people away from it when it was released and why is it not more widely known, if it is such a good film?

What is this about?

In this loopy comedy, a lone-wolf urban hero goes undercover as a preppy nerd to get to the bottom of things when a black general suddenly abandons a viable presidential bid to open a chain of fried-chicken restaurants.

What did I like?

Funky. At first glance, you might think this is a Blaxploitation film from the 70s, what with the music, afros, and whatnot, but that isn’t the case. Undercover Brother is just not with the times. His love for the 70s, though, led to some interesting music choices when it came to the soundtrack. If ever there was an excuse to play 70s funk, with the exception of the beginning of Pulp Fiction or your typical porn music, this was it. Boy does it make all the difference having authentic funk, as opposed to some generic lab music that could have been placed there instead.

Stereotypes. It has long been said that stereotypes hurt, even though they are funny and rooted in truth. Well, without stereotypes, this film would not exist. Take for instance the belief that white people love mayonnaise. I happen to know quite a few that don’t feel that way. Same goes for African-Americans and hot sauce I’ll refrain from mentioning the phallic cigarette example…you need to see that for yourself. Now, the situation UB gets into that exposes said stereotypes are quite hilarious and a big part of the comedy that is used in this film, so if you don’t understand and/or are offended by such musings, you might want to stay away.

Chemistry. When someone mentions chemistry as it pertains to a film, 9 times out 10 they are referring to the spark between the leading man and lady, especially if they have some kind of romantic angle. In this case, though, I’m going to speak on the chemistry between Undercover Brother and his archenemy, Mr. Feather, played by Eddie Griffin and Chris Kattan, respectively. First off, these are both vertically challenged comedians, shall we say, so putting them together opposite each other was a stroke of genius. Throw in their horrendous attempts at kung fu and a few one-liners, not to mention Kattan’s weird way of slipping into “blackness”, and these guys steal the show. You could almost have a film with just them going back and forth at each other…almost.

What didn’t I like?

Wet and Wild things. Denise Richards plays a character called “White She-Devil”. Before you laugh too hard, remember this a satire about Blaxploitation, racism, etc. Richards is best known for 3 things. A)She has always had a body to die for. B). She married Charlie Sheen. C). A certain scene from Wild Things. Even though no one in this film is at the top of their craft when it comes to acting, you can’t help but think that Richards wasn’t cast for her acting ability. This is further proven by the fact that she is lured into a catfight, which led to a shower scene with Sistah Girl. Again, this is nothing but spoof and satire, but it felt out of place, almost like the sprinkler scene in Scary Movie 2. Still, as a red-blooded, heterosexual male, I can’t say that I was complaining about what I saw.

Sitcom ending. In a time gone by, sitcoms would end with everyone gathered in the living room or somewhere, talking about what happened to them over the course of the episode and giving the audience the “moral of the story” For years, even South Park used this trope, as the episodes would all end with Kyle telling a tale that touches the heart of the town. Nothing that extreme will be heard here, but there is a speech after the climax that seems like it belongs in said sitcoms.

Dropping hints. All throughout the film, hints are dropped at something bigger. Be they the paranoia of Conspiracy Brother, the mad plot of “the Man”, the Affirmative action hiring of Neil Patrick Harris’ character, etc. Basically, it is obvious that this was mean for something greater, but that never came, which is a shame, but it is what it is, right?

Undercover Brother delivers on all the laughs, spoof, and satire that it is said to have done. With a soundtrack full of funk and a cast of characters that are sure to make you laugh, this film actually over achieved. I personally think there was too much focus placed on everyone but UB, including Lance the intern, James Brown, Smart Brother, and so on and the rest of the gang. Do I recommend it? My answer is only if you can handle it. No, there’s nothing objectionable in here, save for the aforementioned stereotypes. Give this one a shot sometime! Your laughter will thank me!

4 out of 5 stars 

Old Yeller

Posted in Classics, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 5, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1860s post-Civil War Texas, Jim Coates (Fess Parker) leaves home to work on a cattle drive, leaving behind his wife Katie (Dorothy McGuire), older son Travis (Tommy Kirk) and younger son Arliss (Kevin Corcoran).

While Jim is away, Travis sets off to work in the cornfield, where he encounters “Old Yeller” (Spike), a Mastador (Labrador Retriever/ Mastiff) mix. He was called that because of “yeller’ being a slang pronunciation of yellow, his color. Travis unsuccessfully tries to drive the dog away, but Arliss likes him and defends him to Travis. However, the dog’s habit of stealing meat from smokehouses and robbing hens’ nests does not endear him to Travis.

Later, Arliss tries to capture a black bear cub by feeding it cornbread and grabbing it. Its angry mother hears her cub wailing and attacks, but Old Yeller appears and drives her off, earning the affection of the family. Travis eventually accepts him and a profound bond grows between them.

Old Yeller’s owner, Burn Sanderson (Chuck Connors), shows up looking for his dog, but comes to realize that they need him more than he does, and agrees to trade him to Arliss in exchange for a horny toad and a home-cooked meal.

One day, Travis sets out to trap wild boars. On the advice of Bud Searcy (Jeff York), he sits in a tree, trying to rope them from above as Old Yeller keeps them from escaping. Travis falls into the pack, one of which injures him. Old Yeller attacks it and rescues Travis, who escapes with a badly-hurt leg. Old Yeller is seriously wounded as well. Searcy warns them of hydrophobia (rabies) in the area. Fortunately, the boars did not have hydrophobia, and both Travis and Old Yeller fully recover.

However, the family soon realize that their cow, Rose, has not been allowing her calf to feed and may have rabies. Watching her stumble about, Travis confirms it and shoots her. While Katie and Lisbeth Searcy (Beverly Washburn) burn the body that night, a rabid wolf attacks. Old Yeller defends the family, but is bitten in the struggle before Travis can shoot and kill the wolf. They pen Old Yeller in the corn crib for several weeks to watch him. Soon when Travis goes to feed him, he growls and snarls at him. After he nearly attacks Arliss, who, not understanding the danger, had attempted to open the corn crib, a grieving Travis is forced to shoot him. In doing so, he takes his first step towards adulthood.

Heartbroken from the death of his beloved dog, Travis refuses the offer of a new puppy fathered by Old Yeller. Jim comes home with a bagful of money and presents for his family. Having learned about Old Yeller’s fate from Katie, he explains the facts about life and death to Travis. When they get back to the farm, the young puppy steals a piece of meat, a trick he learned from his father. Travis adopts him, naming him “Young Yeller” in honor of his father.

REVIEW:

When it comes to non animated Disney classics, there are quite a few, but one that sticks out because it isn’t a fairytale, doesn’t have a happy ending, and is perhaps the most realistic of all the films to bear the name of Disney is Old Yeller. Now, before I get into this review, a little full disclosure, if you will indulge me this luxury. I am a cat person who cannot stand dogs. As such, the feelings that people have for canines and the love they have for the species does not apply to me as they are nothing more than filthy animals. That said, ironically, this is one of the films I would list on my personal top 25 of all time.

What is this about?

Young Travis Coates is left to take care of the family ranch with his mother and younger brother while his father goes off on a cattle drive in the 1860’s. When a yellow mongrel comes for an uninvited stay with the family, Travis reluctantly adopts the dog. After a series of scrapes involving raccoons, snakes, bears and all manner of animals, Travis grows to love and respect Old Yeller, who comes to have a profound effect on the boy’s life.

What did I like?

Coming of age. It may be a term that has been thrown around so much that it has lost its meaning, but this is a coming of age film…in some respects. I say this because our protagonist, young Travis, starts the film as a young man of about 16 or so, I’d say. His father has to head up to Kansas to herd cattle and will be gone for 3-4 months, leaving him as the man of the house. If those circumstances don’t man you up, nothing will. Also, as the film goes along, we see Travis develop as a provider and protector, with the help of Old Yeller. Speaking of his relationship with Yeller that starts out rocky and grows into one of true love which leads to the tragedy at film’s end.

Realism. This is one of the few films to come out of the House of Mouse, especially before the late 90s, that didn’t have an ending that was neat, tidy, and happy. As a matter of fact, the ending, excluding the last few scenes starting with the return of the father, is actually what has made this film so popular today. There is just something about animal deaths in movies that really chokes people up. Bambi’s mother, Mufasa, the dogs in Where the Red Fern Grows, etc. all send folks headed for their tissues. I’m perhaps one of the biggest fans of magic pixie dust saving everything in films, but I can appreciate the realism that occurs every now and then, especially if it is done in such a way that it doesn’t send you to the kitchen wanting to slit your wrists.

Powerful. When animals get sick, they have to be put down, even if they are the titular character of a film. As the film hits its tragic climax, Old Yeller has contracted hydrophobia (rabies) from a wolf that bit and scratched him while he was protecting the family. The connection between best friends is probably one of the strongest around, save for the maternal bond. With that in mind, imagine what it would be like if say your best friend contracted some deadly disease and became a danger to everyone, including themselves, so you have to put them out of their misery. That is basically the scene that happens as Travis has to put down Old Yeller. It is a quick scene, but definitely the most powerful one of the entire film, and the one that sticks with you long after the credits have rolled.

What didn’t I like?

Well-trained. Old Yeller really is a smart dog. He knows his name, when to protect humans, not to randomly steal food, and so on and so forth. Here’s my thing, though, if this dog is so smart, why is it that he ran away? Seems to me an intelligent dog would know to stick around, or at least how to get back. I’m taking into account that perhaps they were on some sort of cattle drive, but from listening to his owner talk, it was more like he just ran away from home. Not very smart!

Brat. Kids these days have no respect for parents, adults, or authority, believing they can do whatever they want. I think the younger son, Arliss, was foreshadowing of this. I’ve never seen any child who lives in the west act this way. Everytime Travis or his mother told him something to do, he would either ignore it or do the exact opposite. He made sure to let it be known that he only would listen to his father. Perhaps that is the reason he’s such a bad kid, he has no one around  to play with and his dad is always gone, so he just acts out. He acting out nearly cost his family their lives. His mother clearly told him not to open the corn coop where a (unbeknownst to him) rabid Old Yeller was placed. In an act of defiance unlike any other, he looks dead at his mother and continues to attempt to open it until she gets there. What a brat!!!

Something missing. This is an average length film, running just over 90 minutes. However, I feel that in an effort to keep the runtime down, something was cut out. I have never read the book, so I can’t say for sure, but there just seem to be random holes in time, most notably a time-lapse after the hog incident (or they healed really quickly). Also, I feel I should mention how small a role the mother actually plays. Sure, she’s the mother and does all those type of things, but until the climax, she doesn’t really have much to do, compared to what you would see some other frontier women do.  This isn’t that big of an issue, but she seems more of the strong type as opposed to the delicate flower, so there you go.

What can I say about Old Yeller? This is a quality family film filled with drama and emotion, but ultimately is a fun film. I wouldn’t go in this expecting to be blown away by the acting because, truthfully, it isn’t that great. However, the great story, beautiful scenery, and pure innocence of the film more than make up for all of that. Let me stop rambling and just say that yes I recommend this as one of the films you should see before you die!

5 out of 5 stars

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