Free Birds

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 20, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Reggie the Turkey has always been afraid of Thanksgiving because turkeys have always been on the menu, but his attempts to warn his farm-based flock constantly fall on deaf ears and has made him an outcast. When the other turkeys finally realize what is going on, they throw Reggie outside in an attempt to save themselves. In a surprise twist of fate, he winds up being named the “pardoned turkey” by the President of the United States and is subsequently taken to Camp David. Although initially hesitant, Reggie soon eases into a routine of doing nothing but enjoying pizza delivered to him by the “Pizza Dude” and watching Mexican telenovelas.

About three days before Thanksgiving, Reggie gets bag-kidnapped by Jake, the president and the only member of the Turkeys Liberation Front. Jake tells him that a “Great Turkey” told him to find Reggie and take him back to the first Thanksgiving with him to take turkeys off the menu once and for all. They then infiltrate the base where a time machine is located. Despite interference by federal officials and several attempts by Reggie to trick him back to the surface, Jake manages to commandeer an egg-shaped time machine with an A.I. software named S.T.E.V.E. and they time-travel back to the same day in 1621, three days before the first Thanksgiving. Once there, they are immediately attacked and separated by colonial hunters led by Myles Standish. Reggie and Jake are quickly rescued by native turkeys led by Chief Broadbeak and his two children, Ranger and Jenny, the latter of whom Reggie immediately falls for.

Broadbeak explains that the turkeys in the area have been forced underground since the settlers came and that they cannot risk fighting back without the settlers taking them. The next day, Broadbeak orders Jake and Ranger to spy on the settlers and Reggie and Jenny to spring all the hunting traps the humans set up. Despite initial hostility, Ranger and Jake find out that the settlers have already begun preparations for Thanksgiving as well as where they keep their weapons. Meanwhile, Jenny, who believes Reggie is lying about being from the future, is impressed with his accidental unorthodox way of springing the traps. However, they are soon intercepted by Standish and Reggie is forced to get her in orbit over the planet aboard S.T.E.V.E., validating everything he said in the process. Reggie convinces Jenny to go back to the future with him once everything blows over, but she refuses to leave the flock no matter how much she likes him. Jake then drags Reggie away and tells him he has a plan to attack the settlers. However, Reggie has gotten sick of all his unapproved stories and threatens to leave.

Desperate, Jake tells him that this trip was more about him making up for his failure to save turkey eggs while escaping a turkey-fattening facility when he was young, maintaining that the Great Turkey convinced him to go through with this. While still reluctant to believe what he said, Reggie still goes along with the plan. They manage to use gunpowder to destroy the weapons shack, but Jake inadvertently leaves a gunpowder trail back to the tree the turkeys are hiding under. Standish and his men flush the turkeys out from underground, capturing enough for the feast and killing Broadbeak in the ensuing panic. Jenny is sworn in as the new chief and orders the remaining turkeys to prepare an attack on the settlers.

Despite Jake’s attempts to get him to stay, a heartbroken Reggie heads back to the present. Once back at Camp David, Reggie is confronted by three future versions of himself. Through the awkward conversation, Reggie discovers from one of them that he is the Great Turkey, having used S.T.E.V.E. to throw his voice and appearance. Inspired, Reggie goes back in time to stop the attack, erasing Standish from history in the process. Through S.T.E.V.E. and the Pizza Dude, Reggie convinces the settlers and the arriving Indians that pizza is a more acceptable food than turkeys, taking them off the Thanksgiving menu entirely. In the end, Reggie decides to stay with Jenny while Jake takes S.T.E.V.E. in order to look for new adventures. However, Jake returns moments after leaving and implies to Reggie and Jenny that he needs help putting an end to the turducken.

REVIEW:

You know, now that I think about it, there really aren’t many movies about turkeys and/or Thanksgiving, of note, except for that Charlie Brown special. Back in the day, it seemed liked everyone had one, but these days, not so much. I believe that is why Free Birds even exists, to fill the void that the younger generations don’t know exists.

What is this about?

After years of fruitless warning of his farmyard brethren of the coming Thanksgiving doom, Reggie the Turkey finds himself spared as the annual Pardoned Turkey. However, Reggie’s easy life is disrupted by Jake, a fanatic turkey who drags him along with the insane idea of going back in time to make sure turkeys are not part of the first Thanksgiving. Through foolhardiness and luck, the pair manage to take an experimental time machine to do just that. Now in 1621 at the Plymouth colony, Reggie and Jake find themselves in the middle of a turkey clan’s struggle for survival. In doing so, their preconceptions of the world and themselves are challenged forever in a conflict from which the world will never be the same.

What did I like?

Pardon me. Every year, one turkey is given the honor of being pardoned by the President of the United States. What this does is basically grant said turkey a stay of execution for a year, let’s not sugarcoat what it is. The creative force behind this flick was smart enough to take this concept and run with it. Not only do they take said and turkey and show him living the life inside the White House, but they take the time to show the audience that humans can’t tell one turkey from the other. Is it just me, or do those guards in the hazmat suits look like they came from the set of Monsters, Inc.

Someone actually had a thought! Take a minute and think of all the films that have been released in the past year or so. Aside from sequels and comic book films, how many were actually original? For me, I think there may have been one or two, but that’s it. The rest all fall into the unfortunate category of reboots/remakes. Ugh! This seemed like it was going to be just another kiddie flick, but in reality, it deserves some praise for having an inspired, original script, which is something we don’t run across very often. Whether you love or hate this film, one think that can be said it that it is fin.

Oh My! In the last year or so, George Takei has become a huge star, at least for now. In a nod to his past on Star Trek, it was rather funny to see/hear him as the voice of the time traveling space ship, S.T.E.V.E. Takei’s trademark humor are included well, as we see that the ship is a character on its own…arguably a better character than the birds!

What didn’t I like?

Owen. Once again, we have Owen Wilson voicing a rather pathetic character who somehow manages to develop a backbone, conveniently, at the right time and helps to save the day. Cliché plot point aside, Wilson’s voice grates my nerves almost like no other, except Jesse Eisenberg and Jay Baruchel. Personally, I have never and will never care for the less talented of the Wilson brothers, who seems to always be shoved down our throats, complete with close-up of his deformed nose. I’m surprised they didn’t give this turkey some sort of deformity. Then again, I guess being the scrawny one, as he is, was bad enough. Does Wilson do a good job voicing the character? Not really. He does ok reading the lines and all, but that’s what it feels like. There is little to no emotion put into his performance and if he was looking to create another animated character on par with Lightning McQueen, this isn’t it.

Love story. Two turkeys go back in time in an egg-shaped time machine to stop the First Thanksgiving so that turkeys everywhere can stop being killed every year. Sounds like a die-hard action movie for kids, right? Would you think they’d put a love story in there? In my mind, I figured we’d see the token love interest temporarily, as in like a scene here or there. Little did I know that they would drag that out, give her an entire backstory, and make her a central character. In a better film, this would not be a problem, but this all just seemed shoehorned in to fill up a couple of extra minutes.

Anti-Thanksgiving. The people who made this film must really have something against Thanksgiving. Not only do they try to take turkey away from the dinner tables (I’m not a turkey eater, myself), but they take the “heroes” of initial feast and turn them into the villain, especially Miles Standish. Some have called this an anti-Thanksgiving film. I cannot find a reason to argue with that moniker, as it does everything it can to kill the holiday, save for actually accomplishing the goal the two turkeys set out to do in the first place, which was stop the first Thanksgiving.

Watching Free Birds, I got a couple of chuckles from a joke here and there, such as one about “Angry Birds”, but the humor mostly fell flat with me, as I’m not in the demographic this was intended. However, I did like the story that was written for this film and believe that it could have been something special in more capable hands. The animation is pedestrian, but not horrible, and the character design seems to be uninspired, for lack of a better term. Do I recommend this? On a normal summer day, I would have to say no. However, when Thanksgiving rolls around and you’re looking for a holiday flick to watch with the kids, then sure. After all, that is more than likely the only reason this film was even made.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

The Shining

Posted in Classics, Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 18, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Jack Torrance arrives at the Overlook Hotel to interview for the position of winter caretaker, with the aim of using the hotel’s solitude to work on his writing. The hotel is built on the site of a Native American burial ground and becomes completely snowed in during the long winters. As a result the Hotel is closed from November to May. Manager Stuart Ullman warns him that a previous caretaker developed cabin fever and killed his family and himself. Jack’s son, Danny, appears to have ESP and has had a terrifying premonition about the hotel. Jack’s wife, Wendy, tells a visiting doctor that Danny has an imaginary friend named Tony, and that Jack has given up drinking because he had hurt Danny’s arm following a binge.

The family arrives at the hotel on closing day and is given a tour. The chef Dick Hallorann surprises Danny by telepathically offering him ice cream. He explains to Danny that he and his grandmother shared this telepathic ability, which he calls “shining”. Danny asks if there is anything to be afraid of in the hotel, particularly room 237. Hallorann tells Danny that the hotel itself has a “shine” to it along with many memories, not all of which are good. He also tells Danny to stay out of room 237.

A month passes; while Jack’s writing project goes nowhere, Danny and Wendy explore the hotel’s hedge maze. Wendy becomes concerned about the phone lines being out due to the heavy snowfall and Danny has more frightening visions. Jack, increasingly frustrated, starts acting strangely and becomes prone to violent outbursts.

Danny’s curiosity about room 237 gets the better of him when he sees the room’s door open. Later, Wendy finds Jack, asleep at his typewriter, screaming while in the midst of a horrifying nightmare. After she awakens him, he says he dreamed that he had killed her and Danny. Danny then shows up with a bruise on his neck and visibly traumatized, causing Wendy to accuse Jack of abusing Danny. Jack wanders into the hotel’s Gold Room where he meets a ghostly bartender named Lloyd. Lloyd serves him bourbon on the rocks while Jack complains to him about his marriage.

Wendy later tells Jack that Danny told her that a “crazy woman in one of the rooms” tried to strangle him. Jack investigates room 237, where he encounters the ghost of a dead woman, but tells Wendy he saw nothing. Wendy and Jack argue about whether Danny should be removed from the hotel and a furious Jack returns to the Gold Room, now filled with ghosts having a costume party. Here, he meets the ghost of the previous caretaker, Grady, who tells Jack that he must “correct” his wife and child, and that Danny has reached out to Hallorann somehow.

Meanwhile, in Florida, Hallorann has a premonition that something is wrong at the hotel and takes a flight back to Colorado to investigate. Danny starts calling out “redrum” frantically and goes into a trance, now referring to himself as “Tony”.

While searching for Jack, Wendy discovers his typewriter; he has been typing endless pages of manuscript repeating “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” in different layouts. She is confronted by Jack, who threatens her before she knocks him unconscious with a baseball bat. She manages to drag him into the kitchen and lock him in the pantry, but this does not solve her larger problem; she and Danny are trapped at the hotel since Jack has sabotaged the hotel’s two-way radio and snowcat. Later, Jack converses through the pantry door with Grady, who then unlocks the door, releasing him.

Danny writes “REDRUM” (with the D and second R written backwards) in lipstick on the bathroom door. When Wendy sees this in the bedroom mirror, the letters spell out “MURDER”. Jack begins to chop through the door leading to his family’s living quarters with a fire axe. Wendy frantically sends Danny out through the bathroom window, but it will not open sufficiently for her to pass. Jack then starts chopping through the bathroom door as Wendy screams in horror. He leers through the hole he has made, shouting “Here’s Johnny!”, but backs off after Wendy slashes his hand with a butcher knife.

Hearing the engine of the snowcat Hallorann has borrowed to get up the mountain, Jack leaves the room. He kills Hallorann in the lobby and pursues Danny into the hedge maze. Wendy runs through the hotel looking for Danny, encountering several ghosts and a huge cascade of blood from an elevator. Meanwhile, Danny walks backwards in his own tracks and leaps behind a corner, covering his tracks with snow to mislead Jack, who is following his footprints. Wendy and Danny escape in Hallorann’s snowcat, while Jack freezes to death in the hedge maze.

In a photograph in the hotel hallway dated July 4, 1921, Jack Torrance smiles amid a crowd of party revelers.

REVIEW:

For some reason, people keel over from shock when I tell them that I have not seen The Shining. I guess they forget that I am not really a fan of horror and suspense, unless it is from the Golden Age of Hollywood. That being said, persuasive forces, shall we say, in the house convinced me to sit down and watch this tonight, so I appeased them (or else I would have went without food!)

What is this about?

Aspiring novelist Jack Torrance accepts a position as the off-season custodian at an elegant but eerie hotel so he can write undisturbed. But shortly after Jack, his wife and his young son settle in, the ominous hotel wields its sinister power.

What did I like?

Madness. Sakes alive, I hope never end up having to check into the Overlook Hotel. That place apparently will drive even a sane man insane and a little boys’ imaginary friends take over their bodies and commit heinous act. This sounds off kilter, but it is what makes this film such a revered classic. Some have argued that it is the best of the films based on Stephen King’s works (I’m still waiting on The Gunslinger).

Visuals. When you scroll through Netflix looking for something to watch, you may come across a category known as “Visually Striking”. If this ever makes it to instant streaming, it belongs in that category. With the flashes of present day and what has yet to happen, or has it already happened…hmmm….(something you have to watch and determine what I am talking about), as well as the illusion of blood flooding the corridor and the moldy dead body of the woman in the tub, just to name a few examples, once cannot discount how important the visuals are to the telling of this tale. Dare I say this would be a completely different film without them.

Explanation. Have you ever noticed that sometimes a film will have a title that makes you wonder what it has to do with the film? Well, we get an explanation of what The Shining is pretty early on, which sets up the events which happen later on in the film. I won’t go into detail about what it is, but I will say it is a mental “power”, if you will. Could we have made it through the film without an explanation? Perhaps, but I do not believe that would have been a good idea.

What didn’t I like?

Silence. With horror/suspense films, music plays almost as important a role as it does in musicals. I say this because it sets up the atmosphere and the cues can make a huge impact when it comes to how scary a scene can be. The most notorious use of this is in Hitchcock films, especially Psycho. This film incorporates some of those same ideas, as I’m sure Kubrick and many directors since were hugely influenced by Hitchcock’s work and have instructed the film composers to study him, as well. If that be the case, then they do a bang up job. However, the silence does not work for me. It becomes a tad bit irksome, almost like sitting in a room taking a standardized test. You long for some kind of nose be it a pencil dropping, a bird chirping, someone’s stomach growling, a fart, anything. That is how grating the silence is to me, personally, but others may not feel as strongly.

Snapped. Jack Nicholson has played a plethora of characters over the years, but I think this is one of his most well-known. As I was watching, I think I missed the point where he started to descend into madness. It appeared as if he just suddenly went from being a normal guy, who was getting nagged a but by his wife, to a stark, raving mad lunatic. The guy just snapped, which is well and good, except for the fact that this film seems to do all it can to make sure everyone is extremely well-developed and there is a reason for every action.

Maze. While out in the maze, I couldn’t help but thing of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I guess since they both take place in hedge mazes and such. What didn’t I like about this maze, though? Well, near the end, when the creepy little kid is being chased, apparently running on pure adrenaline, and he seemingly has no problem navigating through there…in the dead of night with little to no light! Unless he is some kind of genius or just happened to remember the directions he went when his mom took him out there, this should not be happening! I guess filmmakers will do anything to avoid killing a child on-screen, though, even bending reality.

For a film that is this highly revered, I was not blown away by The Shining. Yes, it was a very good film and many parts were entertaining but, I dunno, I guess I was just expecting something…more. Personal expectations aside, I can say that this is a film that is worth watching and give it a high recommendation. Aside from a few minor issues, there isn’t much negative to say about this film. It does start a bit slow and is on the long side, however. Give this a shot sometime, if you’re in mood for Stephen King horror.

4 out of 5 stars

Revisited: How to Marry a Millionaire

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , on August 15, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Resourceful Schatze Page (Lauren Bacall), spunky Loco Dempsey (Betty Grable), and ditzy Pola Debevoise (Marilyn Monroe) rent a luxurious Sutton Place penthouse in New York City from Freddie Denmark (David Wayne), who is avoiding the IRS by living in Europe. The women plan to use the apartment to attract rich men and marry them. When money is tight, Schatze pawns some of Freddie’s furniture, without his knowledge. To their dismay, as winter approaches, the furnishings continue to be sold off as they have no luck.

One day, Loco carries in some groceries, assisted by Tom Brookman (Cameron Mitchell). Tom is very interested in Schatze, but she dismisses him, thinking he is poor. She tries repeatedly to brush him off as she sets her sights on the charming, classy widower J.D. Hanley (William Powell) whose worth is irreproachably large. All the while she’s stalking the older J.D., Tom, who is actually very wealthy, keeps after her. After every one of their dates, she tells him she never wants to see him again. She refuses to marry a poor man again.

Meanwhile, Loco (Grable) becomes acquainted with a grumpy businessman (Fred Clark). He is married, but she agrees to go with him to his lodge in Maine, mistakenly thinking she’s going to meet a bunch of Elks Club members. When they arrive, Loco is disappointed to find that the businessman was hoping to have an affair with her and set them up in a dingy lodge instead of the glamorous one she was expecting. She attempts to leave but unfortunately comes down with the measles and has to stay in the lodge until cured. She is nursed back to health with the help of a strapping young man named Eben (Rory Calhoun), whom she thinks owns most of the surrounding land. She has no trouble transferring her affections to the handsome outdoorsman and they become engaged. When she finds out that he’s just a forest ranger, she is very disappointed, but Loco realizes that she loves him and is willing to overlook his financial shortcomings.

The third member of the group, Pola (Monroe), is extremely nearsighted, but hates to wear her glasses where any man might see her. As she puts it, “Men aren’t attentive to girls who wear glasses.” (a takeoff of Dorothy Parker’s “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.”) She falls for a phony Arab oil tycoon, not knowing he’s really a crooked speculator. Luckily, when she takes a plane from La Guardia airport to meet him, she misreads Kansas City for Atlantic City on an airport sign and ends up on the wrong plane. She sits next to a man, also wearing glasses, who thinks she’s “quite a strudel” and encourages her to put hers on. It turns out that he is the mysterious Freddie Denmark on his way to Kansas City to find the crooked accountant who got him into trouble with the IRS. He doesn’t have much luck when he tracks the man down, but he and Pola become enamored with each other and eventually marry.

Loco, and Pola are reunited with Schatze just before her wedding to J.D. Schatze finds herself unable to go through with the wedding and confesses to J.D. that she is in love with Tom. He graciously understands and agrees to call off the wedding. Tom is among the wedding attendees and the two reconcile and marry, with Schatze still not knowing that he is rich.

Afterwards, the three happy couples end up at a greasy spoon, dining on hamburgers. Schatze jokingly asks Eben and Freddie about their financial prospects – which are slim. When she finally gets around to Tom, he casually admits a net worth around $200 million, and lists an array of holdings, which none of the others appear to take seriously. He then calls for the bill, pulling out an enormous wad of money and pays with a $1,000 note, telling the chef to keep the change. The three astonished women faint dead away onto the floor. Tom then proposes the men drink a toast to their unconscious wives.

REVIEW:

Robin Williams wasn’t the only legend we lost this week. Tuesday evening, Lauren Bacall passed away, as well. Admittedly, I’m not as familiar with Bacall’s work as I should be, save for her affair with Humphrey Bogart, a mention in that song “Key Largo”, and this film, How to Marry a Millionaire.

What is this about?

Three New York models, Shatze, Pola and Loco set-up in an exclusive apartment with a plan: tired of cheap men and a lack of money they intend to use all their talents to trap and marry three millionaires. The trouble is that’s it’s not so easy to tell the rich men from the huxters and even when they can, is the money really worth it?

What did I like?

A little personality. Each of these actresses is knows for a certain demeanor in their films. For instance, Marilyn Monroe plays the ditzy blonde in 95% of the films she is in (and you can argue that way in her life, as well). Her character here is no different. It is the personality cues of each of the women that makes this film work. The characters were almost written for them, or so it seems. Can you really imagine Lauren Bacall as a ditz? I know that I can’t!

Subtle references. I noticed a couple of little references to these ladies other works and personal lives. There may have been more that I just didn’t catch and/or know about, but I liked how they were able to have fun with themselves. For instance, Betty Grable’s character is trapped in the lodge and her accomplices turn on the radio to listen to some music, which she insists is Harry James. At the time this was made, I believe she had just divorced him. I forgot the exact situation, but there is a line where Marilyn’s character says, “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” Obviously, this is a reference to a line from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. One has to enjoy that fact that this film is able to have such fun with its cast.

Outrageous. The premise of this film is so over the top, one can only laugh at it. Three extremely attractive, single women move into an apartment they can’t afford with the sole purpose but to fall in love and marry rich husbands. Wow! You just can’t make this stuff up! On paper, one would imagine this being unwatchable, but it is surprisingly entertaining, especially when it gets to the last 15-20 minutes or so, which I will not spoil.

What didn’t I like?

Hits a little too close to home. I cannot let this go unmentioned. These women want nothing more than a guy’s money. Now, as someone who has literally had women break up with me because I don’t make enough money (my chosen profession is grossly underpaid) , this hits close to home. Much in the same way guys are chastised for looking at women with bigger and better curves, women should be the same way when all they look at is the size of a man’s bank account. Sorry to get on the soapbox there for a bit.

Forgotten theme. After the lavish and lush opening featuring the orchestra, we are treated to the theme of the film sung for the first few scenes of the film, and then we don’t ever hear it again. I am not saying that we needed to hear the thing for the entire picture, but it would have been nice to hear it recapitulated here and there and then maybe have it come in as the credits roll. To me, it made no sense to go out of the way to introduce the theme, and then toss it aside.

Models that don’t model. So, these women are models. They have the look for it, that’s for sure. Here’s the problem, though. With the exception of a mention of what Betty Grable’s character does in the early scenes, and one fashion show type scene, they don’t model. All they do it chase guys. It just seems to me that either there should have been more modeling scenes or these ladies should have had another profession.

My complaints with How to Marry a Millionaire are few, but that doesn’t mean this is a film that can be called a tour de force. With the problems that I have with this film, there is also the slight issue of pacing. Sure, it moves along at a nice pace, until it slows down and gets all “mushy and dramatic”, as one of my friends said. Truer words were never spoken, as the film comes to a near halt during that segment. Still, this is a film that most can enjoy and it is good clean fun without the affliction of today’s comedy where it apparently isn’t funny without being raunchy, mean, and/or dirty. Why not give this a shot and see what you think?

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 8/14

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags , , , on August 14, 2014 by Mystery Man

Happy Trailer Thursday, everyone!

This has been a rough week. First we lost Robin Williams and last night screen legend Lauren Bacall passed away.

I will be honoring her with a review of one of her films in the next few days, but in the meantime, this week’s “Trailer Thursday” is dedicated to her and Robin.

Enjoy these trailers and their memories…

First, Lauren Bacall in To Have or Have Not

Next, one of Robin Williams’ best comedic performances…and he’s not anywhere to be seen! Enjoy the trailer for Aladdin!

Guardians of the Galaxy

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 13, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1988, following his mother’s death, a young Peter Quill is abducted from Earth by the Ravagers, a group of space pirates led by Yondu Udonta. Twenty-six years later on the planet Morag, Quill steals an orb only to be intercepted by Korath, a subordinate to the fanatical Kree, Ronan. Although Quill escapes with the orb, Yondu discovers his theft and issues a bounty for his capture while Ronan sends the assassin Gamora after the orb.

When Quill attempts to sell the orb on the Nova Corps home world Xandar, Gamora ambushes him and steals it. A fight ensues, drawing in a pair of bounty hunters: the genetically engineered raccoon Rocket, and the tree-like humanoid Groot. The Nova Corps arrives and arrests the group, imprisoning them in the Kyln. A powerful inmate, Drax, attempts to kill Gamora due to her association with Ronan, who killed his family. Quill dissuades him by saying that Gamora can bring Ronan to him. Gamora reveals that she has betrayed Ronan, unwilling to let him use the orb’s power to destroy entire planets such as Xandar. Learning that Gamora has a buyer for the orb, Rocket, Quill, Groot, and Gamora work together to escape the Kyln.

Elsewhere, Ronan meets with the titan Thanos to discuss his daughter Gamora’s betrayal and the loss of the orb. Accompanied by Drax, Quill’s group escapes the Kyln in his ship—the Milano—and flee to Knowhere, a remote criminal outpost in space built in the giant severed-head of a celestial. A drunken Drax summons Ronan, while the rest of the group meet Gamora’s contact, Taneleer Tivan. Tivan opens the orb, revealing an Infinity Stone, an item of immeasurable power that destroys all but the most powerful beings who wield it. Suddenly, Tivan’s tormented assistant grabs the Stone, triggering an explosion that engulfs his collection.

Ronan arrives and easily defeats Drax, while the others flee by ship, pursued by Ronan’s followers and Gamora’s sister Nebula. Nebula destroys Gamora’s ship, leaving her floating in space, and Ronan’s forces leave with the sphere. Quill contacts Yondu before following Gamora into space, giving her his helmet to survive; Yondu arrives and retrieves the pair. Rocket, Drax, and Groot threaten to attack Yondu’s ship to rescue them, but Quill negotiates a truce by convincing Yondu that they can recover the orb. The group agrees that facing Ronan means certain death, but that they must stop him from using the Infinity Stone to destroy the galaxy. On Ronan’s ship, the Dark Aster, Ronan embeds the Stone in his warhammer, taking its power for himself. He contacts Thanos, threatening to kill him after the destruction of Xandar; hateful of her adopted father, Nebula allies with Ronan.

On Xandar, the Dark Aster is confronted by Yondu’s fleet, the Nova Corps, and Quill’s group, which breaches the Dark Aster. Ronan uses his empowered warhammer to destroy the Nova Corps fleet. Drax kills Korath, and Gamora defeats Nebula (who escapes) and unlocks Ronan’s chambers, but the group finds themselves outmatched by his power until Rocket crashes the Milano through the Dark Aster and into Ronan. The damaged Dark Aster crash lands on Xandar, with Groot sacrificing himself to shield the group. Ronan emerges from the wreck and prepares to destroy Xandar, but Quill distracts him, allowing Drax and Rocket to destroy Ronan’s warhammer. Quill grabs the freed Stone, and with Gamora, Drax, and Rocket sharing its burden, they use it to destroy Ronan.

In the aftermath, Quill tricks Yondu into taking a container supposedly containing the Stone, then gives the real Stone to the Nova Corps. As the Ravagers leave Xandar, Yondu remarks that it turned out well that they did not deliver Quill to his father. Quill’s group, now known as the Guardians of the Galaxy, have their criminal records expunged, and Quill learns that he is only half-human, his father being part of an ancient, unknown species. Quill finally opens the last present he received from his mother; a cassette tape filled with her favorite songs. The Guardians leave in the rebuilt Milano along with a sapling cut from Groot.

In a post-credits scene, Tivan sits in his destroyed archive with two of his living exhibits: a canine cosmonaut and an anthropomorphic duck.

REVIEW:

A couple of years ago when Guardians of the Galaxy was announced, I along with everyone else scratched my head and said WTF?!? No one really knew anything about these characters. They aren’t the mainstream heroes such as Iron Man, Captain America, Batman, Superman, etc. All that skepticism and mystery was thrown out the window when the first trailer was released during the Super Bowl. Ever since then, this has been one of the films people have been looking forward to the most, but does it live it up to the hype, or fall short of expectation, giving Marvel Studios its first real flop?

What is this about?

On the run from intergalactic warlord Ronan, hotshot space pilot Peter Quill unites a ragtag band of oddballs to form a team of unlikely heroes. Soon, the Guardians discover that they alone stand between Ronan and the galaxy’s destruction.

What did I like?

Pacing. I’m sure we’ve all seen movies like this that either start off with a band and then slow down or they start off so slow and never really get going until the climax, leaving you sitting there bored out of your mind for most of the film. Well, fret not, my friends, because this film manages to get in its moments of drama and then quickly move on to something else. The filmmakers know that the audience for this does not necessarily wan to sit through all that, so they move it along at a quick pace and don’t look back.

Music. When the first trailer featured Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling”, everyone wasn’t sure what to make of it. Was it a song they just used for the trailer? Is it part of the soundtrack? What was the deal? Well, as it turns out the 70s hits such as that and a few other well-known ditties are the soundtrack, but the music is also incorporated into the storyline through a tragic backstory of Peter Quill, played by Chris Pratt. I’ve got to give the film credit, because that was an ingenious way to incorporate such a random group of songs in a space flick. Also, the use of a Walkman and a tape deck, which kids of today surely have no idea what those are, was a nice nod to those of use who grew up listening to those things much the same way as young Quill.

Characters. With this property, more than any other up to this point in the Marvel Universe, the characters had to be developed, fleshed out, and made accessible to a public that knows little to nothing about them. I would say that this was done successfully. Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord is basically what you would expect Han Solo’s son to be. Gamora, for all my hatred of waif thin Zoe Saldana, is the assassin with a heart that I believe she is meant to be. Drax takes everything literally. As it is explained, he comes from a race of people who don’t know metaphors, which makes for some interesting comedic moments. Yes, comedic moments from Dave Bautista. Who’d have thunk that?!? Groot is the loveable tree and bodyguard for Rocket. Ah, Rocket, the show stealing raccoon! First off, you would never guess that was Bradley Cooper doing his voice. Second, he provides not only some of the best comedic lines in the film, but also, while explaining things to Quill and Gamora, explains why things are the way they are, without the film having to stop and do so.

Let there be light! Apparently, over at DC they believe every character they have has to be dark and brooding, because that is the formula that worked for The Dark Knight trilogy. The only exception appears to be this new Flash show that is coming this fall. Marvel, on the other hand, knows not only how to balance the light and the dark, but also create various genres of films. Take for instance, Captain America: The Winter Soldier. That was darker than its predecessor and also a different genre, as it delved more into the spy racket. This film takes us into space and leaves every bit of darkness behind. I, for one, am ever so grateful for that. Enough with the dark comic book films! Let’s have some fun! Which is the formula this flick uses successfully. Hopefully the start of a new trend towards the light!

What didn’t I like?

Sacrifice. For one of the main characters to sacrifice themselves to save the rest of the team is nothing new. However, I am starting to see a trend in superhero films where they kill off one of said main characters as a way to give motivation to the rest of the group. Now, this wouldn’t be such a big deal if I didn’t feel it had been done to death. I can’t remember exactly where I’ve seen this plot point before, but I know I have. The sacrifice that was made here was emotional, don’t get me wrong, but I’m not so sure it was necessary.

Nova corps. One of the major issues people had with Green Lantern is that we didn’t see enough of the other members of the Corps. Well, Marvel’s equivalent to the Green Lanterns is the Nova Corps. While these aren’t as a popular or varied as the GLs, they do each have their own personalities and I think it would have been nice, since they included them, to get some more insight into at least one or two of them. Maybe even introduce or hint at the one that would go on to be Nova on Earth (the one being used currently in the animated series, Ultimate Spider-Man)

Ronan. Going into this, I heard all the talk about how Ronan wasn’t that great of a villain and how Marvel needs to step up the villain game, blah, blah, blah. Well, my take on it is that Ronan is who Ronan is supposed to be, from what I know of him. Lee Pace does a respectable job with him, maybe not the best, but far from the worst. However, as one review I read/listened to said, “we see Thanos and geek out over knowing that a film is coming where he is the big bad, which makes Ronan one of the bosses that has to be beaten along the way.” I like that analogy, because it sum it up very nicely. If you played the Mega Man games, think of it this way, Thanos is Dr. Wily, Loki and Ronan are two of the bosses that had to be taken out before you can get to him. If not for Thanos, though, Ronan would have been more menacing, I believe. Had they just held him off until later in the film, or let him just be a hologram, a la The Emperor in The Empire Strikes Back, then it probably would have worked.

Well, I wasn’t able to go see Guardians of the Galaxy when it was released because I just didn’t have the time. This weekend, I just couldn’t get up the energy to drive across town and go to the theater. However, this has been the perfect birthday movie for me. Everything I want is in here, action, sci-fi, talking animals, comedy, great music, space. The only thing missing is some retro stuff, but I’ll get to that before the week is over. For me, this film has a couple of flaws that can be overlooked, but few that are enough to make this a bad film. The only thing that I might consider changing is switching Zoe Saldana and Karen Gillian’s characters (before she shaved her head…such a shame to lose those luscious red locks). I will definitely be getting this when it is released to DVD/Blu-Ray. Does that mean I recommend it? Emphatically so! You need to stop what you are doing and go see this right now!

5 out of 5 stars

side note…there is a post credits scene, but I have chosen not to discuss it as I don’t believe it is meant to be anything more than an inside joke to true Marvel fans that are familiar with all of their properties. however, I will say that the previous design of that character might have looked better, in my opinion.

Jumanji

Posted in Action/Adventure, Family, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1869, two boys bury a chest containing the sounds of beating drums outside a forest near Keene, New Hampshire. A century later, 12 year-old Alan Parrish flees from a group of bullies to the shoe factory owned by his father, Sam, where he meets his friend Carl Bentley, one of Sam’s employees. When Alan accidentally damages a machine with a prototype sneaker Carl hopes to present, Carl takes responsibility and loses his job. Outside the factory, after the bullies beat up Alan and steal his bicycle, Alan follows the sound of tribal drumbeats to a construction site and finds a chest containing a board game called Jumanji. Alan takes the game home and, after an argument with his father about attending a boarding school, decides to run away. However, his friend Sarah Whittle arrives, and the two begin playing Jumanji. When the dice are rolled, the player’s piece moves by itself and a cryptic message appears in a crystal ball in the center of the board. Alan’s first move causes him to get sucked into the game and a group of bats to appear that cause Sarah to flee.

Twenty-six years later, siblings Judy and Peter Shepherd move into the vacant Parrish house with their aunt Nora after losing their parents in a skiing accident the previous winter. Judy and Peter hear Jumanji’s drumbeats and play the game in the attic; they are attacked by giant mosquitoes and their kitchen is destroyed by a troop of monkeys. The game states that everything will be restored when it ends, so they continue playing despite the danger. Peter rolls, releasing both a lion and Alan, who is now an adult. Alan locks the lion in a bedroom, then heads to his father’s factory. On the way, he meets Carl, who is now working as a police officer. In the factory, now derelict, a homeless man reveals that Sam was distraught after Alan’s disappearance and abandoned the business to spend the rest of his life searching for his son. As an unintended consequence of the factory’s closure, the small town’s economy is now devastated.

Alan reluctantly agrees to watch while Judy and Peter continue playing, but soon realizes that Judy and Peter are playing the same game he and Sarah started, and therefore they will have to join in. Upon finding Sarah, who has isolated herself due to the mental trauma she suffered during Alan’s disappearance, the trio convince her to help finish the game. Sarah’s move releases fast-growing man-eating vines. Alan rolls and a big-game hunter named Van Pelt emerges, intending to kill Alan. Among other things, an animal stampede throughout the town; Peter gradually transforms into a monkey after attempting to cheat; Peter, Sarah, and Judy fight Van Pelt in a local department store after he steals the game from them to lure Alan to him; the group is overtaken by a monsoon flood with crocodile infested waters; Alan is sucked into the floor by quicksand; large spiders attack the group; Judy is fatally poisoned by a flower barb; and an earthquake destroys the house. Alan fortunately wins Jumanji when Van Pelt corners him, causing everything that has happened as a result of the game to be reversed and the jungle elements (along with Van Pelt) to get sucked back into the game in a sudden whirlwind.

Finding themselves back to when they started the game in 1969 as children, Alan and Sarah have full memories of later events. Alan reconciles with Sam and admits that he damaged the machine in the factory. Carl gets his job back, and Sam tells his son that he does not have to attend the boarding school. Alan and Sarah realize that Judy and Peter have not been born yet. The two chain bricks to the Jumanji board and throw it into a river before Sarah kisses Alan, thus the couple beginning a romantic relationship.

In 1994, Alan and Sarah are married and expecting their first child. Alan has taken over the shoe business, Carl still works in the factory as the plant supervisor, and Sam is retired, but still alive. Judy, Peter, and their parents meet with Alan and Sarah for the first time at a Christmas party, where Alan and Sarah offer Mr. Shepherd a job in the shoe company while convincing the couple to cancel their upcoming skiing trip to Canada, thereby preventing their deaths.

At a beach in another part of the world, two French-speaking young girls hear drumbeats while walking.

REVIEW:

Tonight, as I was sitting here eating dinner, I hear the news that the great Robin Williams had passed away. The circumstances of his death being what they are, I assumed it was a hoax (this was on Facebook, after all, where I learned of his untimely demise). So, I flip through the channels and E! actually had stopped showing that Kardashian show and was talking about him, also CNN was on the story. Turns out it was true. Since I was going to watch a movie tonight, I figured it best to do something that Williams starred in. Of the list that came up, the one that caught my attention the most was Jumanji.

What is this about?

When two siblings discover an enchanted board game that’s a portal to a magical world, they meet a man who’s been trapped inside the game for years.

What did I like?

Board games can be cool. This is the day and age of video games, let’s face it. Everyone plays games on their PS3, PS4, computers, phones, or those xbox abominations. Hell, when I finish typing this up, I’m going to play some Candy Crush! With that being said, when was the last time you heard someone talk about playing a board game? It is extremely rare, excluding the D & D nerds. One of the things about this film that makes it special is that it takes board games and makes them cool. Who wouldn’t want the thought of having what happens in the game to happen in real life, including consequences for cheating or not finishing the game! Wow! If only there would be a game like that in real life, I bet everyone would be playing it!

In Living Color. When this film was released, everyone had forgotten about David Alan Grier…and every cast member of In Living Color not in the Wayans family or Jim Carrey (this was before Jamie Foxx became a star and J-Lo hadn’t auditioned for Selena yet, if my timeline is right) had all disappeared. So, when Grier showed up in this film, it was a surprise. I remember doing a double take when I first saw him. Not because he’s a bad actor, it was just a shock to see him resurface in a major motion picture in a somewhat major role. He owns it and, while it is a bit more serious than he needs to be at times, it is a role that suits him…except for that afro in the 70s scenes. Yikes!

Man-child…excusably so. Will Ferrell and Adam Sandler get nothing but grief about playing manchildren in their movies, but if you look at Robin Williams’ body of work, mostly his comedies, obviously, he was doing the manchild thing, too. So, you can say they were just following his influence and lay off them! *AHEM* Back to Williams…much like Hook, here he gets to be both a man and a kid. As a matter of fact, he doesn’t really know much about being a man, seeing as how he was trapped in the game and had to raise himself for 26 years. There are just some things he missed about growing up, like learning to drive or shave.

What didn’t I like?

Mysterious magic. I am curious as to what this mysterious magic that enchants this board game is. Where did it come from? How is it able to be so wondrous and destructive? I would say that this was all described in the book, but no dice. As a matter of fact, this film is so far removed from the book, one can hardly say it is based on the book of the same name. With all the changes that were made, one would think they’d have found some way to say that maybe a voodoo priestess or something along those lines cursed the game and that is where all the magic comes from, but I guess that would have been too convenient, huh?

Hunter. Fairly early, a hunter is released from the game. What is so bad about him? Well, he seems to be the antagonist for the film, except he doesn’t really do anything but walk around spewing thing out in his bad stereotypical British accent, snarling the whole way. I felt that this guy could have been something more than just a throw away villain, especially since he’s not in the book so there are no confines to what he could be capable of. However, much like describing the magic that the game possesses, this was just a missed opportunity.

Seen better. In 1995, the special effects weren’t mind-blowing. Wait, a year or two before, Jurassic Park was released and, well, we all know how impressive those dinosaurs look, right? So, given the advancement in the use of CG that was happening, why do the animals look like dollar store graphics? What I mean by that is that they look cheap and rushed. Granted, it is 2014 and I may be looking upon them with “future eyes”, but I have seen better in films from this era in time and just can’t let that slide.

Here’s a little tidbit of information on Jumanji you may not have known. It has what they call a “spiritual sequel” in Zathura (both the book and film). Interesting, huh?

So, what did I ultimately think of this film? It has its flaws, obviously, but there is lots of fun to be had watching things come to life and threaten this small New England town. Drama to be had as Williams’ character embraces his problems with his father and becomes a man. Comedy ensues throughout the film, obviously. One major problem that I forgot to mention is how underused Bonnie Hunt is. It seems to me they could have done more with her character, but maybe that’s just me. All in all, though, I have to say that this is a good time to be had by all who watch. While it may not be Williams’ finest performances, it is a worthy way to remember a guy who brought so much joy to everyone. “Nanu Nanu” Do I recommend this? Yes, very highly. However, don’t expect some academy award-winning picture. This is just a good family adventure film. Nothing more, nothing less.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

Lizzie Borden Took an Ax

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , on August 10, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Based on the true story of Lizzie Borden, a Sunday School teacher who lived with her father Andrew, her stepmother Abby, and her older sister Emma in a small house in Fall River, Massachusetts, the film depicts a hot summer day in August 1892 in the Borden home where Lizzie comes across the grisly murder scene of her father who was brutally killed with a hatchet. After local law enforcement responds to the scene, the body of Abby Borden is discovered upstairs, also killed with an ax. As the case progresses, the evidence gathered by the authorities seems to point to Lizzie as their prime suspect. Lizzie’s lawyer Andrew Jennings, however, maintains that a woman could not commit such a cruel act; arguing it is far too gruesome a crime for any woman to commit. Regardless, Lizzie is put on trial for the murders and the courtroom case makes headlines in newspapers throughout the country. Newspaper accounts state the crime to be the most infamous of the century.

REVIEW:

One hears about urban legends, hauntings, and places to not visit, unless you’re in for a good scare. The Lizzie Borden House in Massachusetts is one such place because Lizzie’s ghost still haunts there, if I’m remembering what I heard, correctly. As far as I know I have no plans of traveling up north, but if I do, I want to visit and see if the legends are true. In the meantime, how about we check out made for TV movie, Lizzie Borden Took an Ax.

What is this about?

In 19th-century tabloid journalism, few stories sold better than that of Lizzie Borden, who was tried in 1892 for axing her parents to death. This made-for-TV drama chronicles the scandal and enduring mystery of Lizzie’s guilt or innocence.

What did I like?

Setting. It seems as though everytime there is a film set in the 1800s, with the exception of westerns, they are dark, dingy, and eerie. One would think that would be the plan with this film, but surprisingly the few scenes we see of the town are reminiscent of something like Little House on the Prairie. Perhaps the lighter look outside was done for a reason. I do not know, but it works for me.

Sister. Not much is known about Lizzie Borden’s sister, in comparison to her fame, obviously. Clea Duvall does a masterful job of bringing this mysterious woman to life, introducing her to audiences that know little to nothing about her. The compassion she shows for Lizzie, despite her apparent suspicion, is something that breaks your heart, especially when you watch her lie under oath in court and then later Lizzie tells her what happened (according to the film).

Intense courtroom drama. Those of you that love those courtroom dramas will love the courtroom scenes in this film. Not only do they show the intensity that the prosecutor was showing as he was making his case to convict Lizzie, but the drama and suspense, even though we all know the verdict, is one of the best parts of the film. No wonder they spend a good portion of the film there, huh?

What didn’t I like?

Who is Lizzie? You know, for a movie about Lizzie Borden, we sure don’t get much of a feel for her. What I mean to say by that is her character is never developed as anything more than a murder suspect. Sure, they say she’s a Sunday school teacher, and show her stealing a mirror from the dress shop, but that is hardly enough to give us some insight into who this lady was. Who had the brilliant idea to not develop the star of the film?!?

For those about to rock. I think this film was trying too hard to be hip and current while trying to stay in its time. The prime example of this is the rock and roll soundtrack. Now, it isn’t hardcore metal that is playing, just some rock that plays between scenes. Much like Django Unchained randomly put a rap song in a scene where it especially didn’t fit, the rock was just out of place. The music itself wasn’t bad, just didn’t work for this film. The Irish jig music, or whatever that was, that was reminiscent of the score to Sherlock Holmes worked much better. They should have just stuck with that, if you ask me.

Age appropriate. It isn’t said how old Lizzie or her sister are at the time, but they make it seem as if they are perhaps early to mid twenties. If that is the case, then the actresses that were cast are not age appropriate. Clea DuVall is nearly 40 and Christina Ricci is about my age (30+), give or take a couple of years. Now, we’ve seen TV show and movies over and over again that have stars that are nowhere near the age of the character they are playing, but I feel as if with something like this, though, they should have gotten someone closer to the real age. Then again, if you look at the cast, it is obvious that Christina Ricci was brought in to be the “name” actress.

If you are looking for a historically accurate film, then Lizzie Borden Took an Ax is not the version of this story that you should watching. However, I have to give kudos to the Lifetime network for creating yet another film that isn’t some depressing female centric schlock that the network is known for.  Unfortunately, this still looks like a TV movie, the acting is quite wooden, and the so many details of the murder are skipped over and/or omitted that it makes it hard to enjoy. Do I recommend this? No, but it isn’t one of those films that I think you should stay away from. Given the chance when you’re flipping through channels and happen to catch it, perhaps it would be worth a shot, but otherwise, this is just a subpar outing that really should have been much better.

3 out of 5 stars

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 84 other followers