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

Trailer Thursday 9/4

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on September 4, 2014 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!

This week, let’s go back to the year 2001.

A little known comedy that has gone on to become a cult hit was released starring David Duchovny, Orlando Jones, and Julianne Moore. Check out the trailer for Evolution and see what you think.

 

Nymphomaniac: vol. I

Posted in Drama, Independent, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 3, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

On a cold winter’s evening, the old, charming bachelor Seligman (Stellan Skarsgård) finds the self-diagnosed nymphomaniac, Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) beaten up in an alleyway. He brings her home to his flat where he tends to her wounds while asking her about her life. He listens intently as Joe, over the next eight chapters, recounts the lustful story of her highly erotic life from infancy to the age of 50. Seligman, a widely read man, connects and analyzes Joe’s stories with what he has read about.

Inspired by a fly fishing hook in the wall behind her and Seligman’s love of Izaak Walton’s book The Compleat Angler, Joe opens her story by talking about her developing an ongoing fascination with her genitalia, exploring various childlike ways to find stimulation from the age of 2. Her father (Christian Slater) is a doctor whom she loves dearly while her mother (Connie Nielsen) is, as Joe describes her, “a cold bitch” with arguable apathy towards her family. Joe as a child spends all of her time with her father, learning about the various trees he loves, especially the ash tree. As a young woman (Stacy Martin), she loses her virginity to Jerôme (Shia LaBeouf), a random guy whom she had no relationship with. This first encounter, which ends with Jerôme casually leaving her to fix his motorcycle, leaves her disappointed, while Seligman explains the number of times Jerôme penetrated her, three times vaginally and five anally, is an allegory for the Fibonacci sequence. Years later, accompanied by her best friend B (Sophie Kennedy Clark), Joe engages with multiple people sexually on a train carriage. After having sex in the toilet with many of the men she comes across, she sexually assaults one of them who had denied her advances. The whole purpose of such a sex train-trip, was no other than winning a bet which had a candy bag as a prize.

Over rugelach and a discussion over the lack of masculinity of men using cake forks to eat pastry, Joe talks about her first experiences with actual love, something she dismisses as “lust with jealousy added.” Joe takes on more lovers as she, B and several friends create a club, “The Little Flock,” dedicated to liberating themselves from the prospect of love, though Joe leaves after the other members start developing more serious relationships with their lovers. As she gets older and finds work as a secretary at a printing company after dropping out of medical school, her first employer is none other than Jerôme. Whilst sexual intentions are clearly on his mind, she finds herself avoiding his advances and sleeping with other co-workers, frustrating him. When Joe finally realizes she has developed feelings for Jerôme, she writes him a letter. However, she is too late as he has left along with his uncle’s secretary Liz. She is immediately fired by his uncle (Jesper Christensen), the actual owner of the company, for her lack of experience and goes back to indulging her nymphomania, despite a yearning for Jerôme.

On one occasion with one of her lovers, H (Hugo Speer), she causes conflict that makes him leave his wife for her. The distressed Mrs. H (Uma Thurman) enters her house and attempts to demonize them in front of her children, though Joe states in the present that this barely affected her. The situation then becomes more awkward as Joe’s next lover, A (Cyron Melville), arrives at the house and finds himself in the middle of Mrs. H’s mental breakdown. The family finally leaves, but not before Mrs. H chastises Joe for her lifestyle, slaps her now ex-husband and leaves the apartment screaming.

Seligman’s talk about Edgar Allan Poe and his death from delirium tremens reminds Joe of the last time she saw her father. She is the only one to visit him in the hospital as he dies of cancer. Joe’s father asks her not to slander her mother, who is afraid of hospitals, for not being by his side, explaining they said their goodbyes. Joe is a firsthand witness as her father deteriorates into fits of violent spasms and screaming for his wife, forcing the hospital staff to keep him restrained. To take her mind off her father’s suffering, Joe sleeps with several people at the hospital. When her father finally dies, Joe lubricates in front of the body and becomes depressed.

After Seligman explains how he feels Bach perfected polyphony, Joe uses his example to talk about two lovers leading up to her “cantus firmus.” The “bass voice,” F (Nicolas Bro) is a tender, but predictable man who puts her sexual needs about his own. The “second voice,” G (Christian Gade Bjerrum), thrills Joe because of his animalistic control of her in bed. Just before the end, after going on one of her regular walks, Jerôme finds her after separating from Liz, a coincidence Seligman finds preposterous, and they embrace. As the two engage in passionate sex – set to Joe’s experiences with Jerôme, F and G – Joe becomes distraught after finding that she can no longer ‘feel anything’.

REVIEW:

Last year, I remember hearing about how Lars von Trier was making an extremely controversial film about sex addiction, which would turn out to be a 5 hour film which was eventually split into two parts. Nymphomaniac, vol. I is the first half of the final film of von Trier’s “depression” trilogy. Forgive me for not knowing what the other films in the set are. I believe Melancholia is one, but don’t quote me. So, does this live up to the hype and reputation it has received? Let’s find out, shall we?

What is this about?

A self-diagnosed nymphomaniac reveals a lifetime of sexual experiences to a man who saves her from being beaten in an alley.

What did I like?

Body of work. I must say  that I was actually impressed with the young lady who was tasked with doing all the nude scenes, I believer her name is Stacy Martin. She has a nice little body on her (albeit a bit less curvy than I care for). Her look actually works for this character. Surely, the filmmakers could have recruited some pornstar for this role but, aside from their horrendous acting, would all that plastic work for this role? No, having someone who is natural when she is au natural is extremely key.

Storytelling. Curious is a word I would use to explain my feelings about this film. I mean this is a film about a sort of sex addiction, from all I had heard. How would they tell an actual story? Well, they do just that, tell a story. The filmmaker chose to have a sort of side plot, where our main character (in what I assume is present day), is telling her tales to Stellan Skarsgard’s character. For me this works. Quite easily, they could have just made this a bunch of random sex scenes with some drama thrown in there for good measure, but that would be nothing more than an expensive porn with actual stars.

Tasteful. So, there are a few sex scenes in this film, just in case you haven’t heard. Here’s the thing, though, while they aren’t your typical Hollywood type…everything is done under the sheets and all we see are breasts bouncing, perhaps an ass shot…it is shot in a way that is very tasteful. Yes, we get some hardcore scenes, if you can call them that, and their way more penis shots than I am comfortable with. I think that is the point, though. Think of it like going to a museum and seeing all the nudes. They aren’t nude like say the Playboy “Playmate of the Month”, but rather they are painted/sculpted very tastefully. The same idea is behind all the sex in this film.

What didn’t I like?

Brits do it better. I was asked the other day why I focus so much on accents. The answer to that is that I don’t know, with the exception of southern accents, since I have heard those most of my life. Once again, I must speak on accents, specifically Shia LeBeouf and Christian Slater’s attempt at being British. Now, Slater isn’t that bad, truthfully, but you can still tell he’s not British. With Shia, it is obvious that he is either not as good or trying too hard. His accent doesn’t sound anymore authentic than when I try to use one, which is pretty bad. I guess we Americans can’t do accents as well as the rest of the world. I say that because we have people like  Christoph Waltz, Rebel Wilson, Mel Gibson, Hugh Jackman, most of the cast of True Blood, etc. who can totally make us believe they from right here in the good ol’ U.S. of A., when in turn they are from other places across the pond or down under.

No, No, No, No. What is it that directors keep seeing in Shia LeBeouf? Hell, Steven Spielberg all but christened him the next Indiana Jones before the flop that was Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. This guy is not that great of an actor, contrary to what they might think. So, he shows up in this film in a major role. Here’s the problem, given this subject matter, and where LeBeouf comes from (Disney channel), it is hard to see him doing this kind of role and take him seriously. He just isn’t grizzled enough or leading man material enough to pull it off. A couple of weeks, Hillary Duff released a new video that had her prancing around all sexy, wearing a bikini, etc., much like she did in War, Inc. The problem is that she can’t pull that off, well, the sexy part she can. It is just that she hasn’t shaken the goody-goody image from her childhood. Since both Duff and LeBeouf still have babyfaces, as well, it is even harder to see them in “adult” situations. Maybe part 2 will change my mind about LeBeouf, but I doubt it. He’ll probably just ruin another film series, like he does everything else.

There’s a plot? My apologies for comparing this to porn so many times, but allow me to do this one last time. If you have ever watched porn, then you know the plots are thinner than your girlfriend’s see-through lingerie. There is a much more complex plot here, to be sure, but the issue is why do we care? Reverting to my inner horny teenager for a second, all we see is sex, sex, and more sex. Does a plot really matter, especially when the film is so dull? I would love to say that there was a happy balance amongst the two, but there isn’t. Take the sex out of the film and the plot is rather boring and nonexistent. Of course, this is a film about sex addiction, so you can’t really take the sex out of it. Then again, it worked for parts of Shame.

For a film in the “depression trilogy”, Nymphomaniac: vol. I didn’t make me want to slit my wrists they way that other film in the same vein have. Don’t misunderstand me, this is not a feel-good film, by any stretch of the imagination, but at least there are moments that allow you to feel human. The biggest problem with this picture, though, is that it tries to be more than it is. I found it to be pretentious and dull. Is this a horrible film? No, as with most pieces of cinema, especially the “artsy-fartsy” kind, there are good and bad. Depending on your proclivities, this may or may not be for you. Do I recommend it? At the present time, I have to say no, unless you yourself are a nymphomaniac. Perhaps when I get around to watching volume II, I will have a more concrete opinion on this, or perhaps it will have been swayed in a different direction. As of now, I can’t say as I believe you need to see them both together, since this is an entire 5 hour film (apparently 90 minutes have been taken out for the American release). All that said, feel free to take a chance, at your own risk!

3 out of 5 stars

Revisited: Toxic Crusaders: The Movie

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , on September 2, 2014 by Mystery Man

Toxic Crusaders: The Movie

PLOT:

Several episodes of the 1991 show edited together tell the story of Toxie and his hideously deformed super human mutant friends who fight insectoid alien Dr. Killemoff and his henchmen who use radioactive waste to take over the world.

REVIEW:

Sunday night I went on a listening spree of old cartoon theme songs. It was a genuine trip down memory lane, as some I had forgotten, other brought up memories of childhood, and others just have that feel good vibe. One of the themes I came across was for the Toxic Crusaders, a cartoon based on The Toxic Avenger franchise (but severely watered down for kids). A few of the first episodes were spliced together to give us Toxic Crusaders: The Movie.

What is this about?

In the latest installment of the adventures of America’s most improbable superhero, The Toxic Avenger battles the evildoers who threaten his home-sweet-hometown of Tromaville — especially Dr. Killemoff (Michael J. Pollard), who attempts to destroy Toxie as he travels from the planet Smogula. The dastardly doctor’s plans for Tromaville must be stopped at all costs. Thank heavens America’s favorite mutant mop-wielder is around to save the day!

What did I like?

Keep it clean. As anyone that has seen The Toxic Avenger can attest, it is not exactly the kind of film that you can sit down and watch with your kids. So, the fact that there was a Saturday morning cartoon based on it is mind-blowing. However, the creators of this show, one of them being Chuck Lorre (the guy behind The Big Bang Theory, Mike & Molly, and Two and a Half Men), made it work. While Toxie isn’t gruesomely killing people, he does still save the day.

Animation of the time. Clearly, this was made in the early 90s. The jokes, tone, music, and look all scream that is the case. Personally, I love this simplistic look that cartoons had back in the day. Not only can one sit and watch this without going into seizures like what happens when watching some of today’s ‘toons, but there is a care taken with hand drawn animation that seems to be forgotten in this day of computers and flash animation.

Know your source. Sometimes, movies were licensed out to animation companies and the resulting product was so far removed from the source material, you’re left scratching your head. Luckily, that isn’t the case here, as there is an obvious care to at least attempt to keep Toxie’s origin the same. Now, the purpose of the show leads to different characters and such, but that’s not my point. The people behind this cartoon knew what they were doing when they signed on and delivered a product worthy of its namesake.

What didn’t I like?

Stop recycling. Taking into account that this is 3 episodes spliced together to make a “movie”, I couldn’t help u quickly get burned out by some of the recurring, recycled material. The jokes, man, the jokes! Boy, howdy, did they recycle those. Once or twice is fine, but this went on for the entire runtime! Now, it should be noted that this was par for the course when it comes to early 90s cartoons. Lord knows Taz-Mania, Animaniacs, etc. did nothing but recycle their jokes, but they at least repackaged them to the point where it wasn’t as obvious. With this, you could almost make a drinking game with everytime someone said “hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength!”

For the fans…but what about everyone else? I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a fan of the franchise, but I am “in the know”, as they say. This is perhaps the reason I was able to get some of the inside jokes that related to the movie. There weren’t many, but a few do exist. I have to think this was done as a fan service, but what about everyone else? Do they get nothing but confusion?

Spliced. If I recall, this was made as a direct-to-video release near the end of the show’s run as an effort to bolster interest, a practice that is done more often that you think. However, given that there was only one season of this, I can’t help but wonder what it would have taken to get an actual movie? Would it really have been that hard? These characters are so lovable and relatable, they deserve better than to have been run off and forgotten, while folks still remember crap like Street Sharks and Biker Mice from Mars.

Truthfully, there isn’t much to say about Toxic Crusaders: The Movie. It is what it is, a compilation of the first episodes. Does it work as a movie? No, not really. It is quite obvious this is nothing but a mixture of the episodes with nothing new thrown in to connect them. With that said, it is still a good, fun time to watch. I would like for this series to have gone on longer, but what can you do, right? Give this a shot and see what you think.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

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