Trailer Thursday 4/10

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on April 10, 2014 by Mystery Man

Welcome to another edition of “Trailer Thursday”

We travel back to the year 1978 this week.

Our featured trailer for this week is for a little college film that has gone on to become the gold standard for college frat films, National Lampoon’s Animal House. To this day, people still quote this film and even among younger generations, you’d be hard pressed to find someone that hasn’t seen its comedic glory!

By the Light of the Silvery Moon

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , on April 9, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

By the Light of the Silvery Moon relates the further adventures of the Winfield family in small town Indiana as daughter Marjorie Winfield’s (Doris Day) boyfriend, William Sherman (Gordon MacRae), returns from the Army after World War I. Bill and Marjorie’s on-again, off-again romance provides the backdrop for other family crises, caused mainly by son Wesley’s (Billy Gray) wild imagination.

REVIEW:

Doris Day had her 90th birthday last week, so I was asked to dig something out of her archives. This led me to By the Light of the Silvery Moon, which is a very popular song from the Vaudeville days and a sequel to another of Day’s, On Moonlight Bay (I’ll get around to that by the time she turns 91, I’m sure). Aside from being my personal tribute to Miss Day, the trailer piqued my interest by showing this as a fun and funny musical, but was it accurate?

What is this about?

Doris Day and Gordon MacRae reprise their roles as pants-loving tomboy Marjorie Winfield and her beau-next-door Bill Sherman in this popular sequel to the hit musical On Moonlight Bay. This time around, Marjorie is cooped up at home with her family. There’s her precocious younger brother, Wesley (Billy Gray of “Father Knows Best”) — while Bill serves as a soldier in World War I. Can they pick up where they left off when he comes home?

What did I like?

Sweetheart. The sorority of America’s sweethearts is packed with all sorts of talented women, but I think Doris Day might very well have been one of the best candidates for that title. Even when she is playing a total tomboy, as she most often does in the films that I’ve seen, she is still a total cutie. Couple that with her emotional rollercoaster and those golden pipes and you can see why guys went home from the theaters dreaming of her and women wanted to be her.

Happy. Last week was just a downer in terms of films that I watched, as most everything that I watched was a downer. I might as well have added Requiem for a Dream to last week’s list and completed the rounds of depression. Thank goodness Captain America was able to turn things around. In a drastic turn of events, this film has a bright, happy tone to it, reminiscent of the era in which it was filmed and perfect for this type of film. I had a smile on my face in the first 5 minutes, and never really left.

Music, maestro, please. I went through a period for a while in which all the musicals that I watched had little to no music. Leave it to the likes of Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, and now Doris Day to take the genre back for me. Not only is there music in this film, but the songs are actually quite memorable, most notably the title song, which I know best from an episode of I Love Lucy. I’m sure it will be in my head for a few days.

What didn’t I like?

Townies. Ahh…small town life, where everyone knows everything you do and judge you for it. Those of you that grew up and/or live in a small town know what I’m talking about. If you don’t, then catch the ice skating scene in this film and find out how bad it can get. A small rumor can turn the whole town against you, which is a shame, but people believe what they want, even back then.

Gumshoe. I’m all for a fantasy sequence that is very film noir-ish, but there has to be a setup for it. In the case of Fearless Flannagan, a character created by Day’s little brother, it seems to have come out of nowhere. Other than giving something for the little brother to do, there really was no point to this, it didn’t move the story along and, though it did serve as an entertaining sidestep, I believe this film would have been better off without going off on that tangent.

Tacked on. A small subplot involving the father and his alleged infidelity seems a bit tacked on, much like the little brothers fantasy segments. There are two ways the filmmakers could have gone with this. Option A would have been to not even attempt to insert the subplot, and keep the focus on the main plot involving Day and her would be fiancée. Option B is to go deeper into this plot, as opposed to skim over it and keep dipping its toe back in the water.

I’m not sure, but I think it can be said that By the Light of the Silvery Moon is one of Day’s underrated films. When you hear people prattle off Doris Day’s resume, this isn’t one of the films that people come up with off the top of their head, but it should be. While some may say this is a bit of a cheesy, corny film, I argue that is part of its charm. Just look at the hand painted sets, rather than actual buildings and you can tell that this film is not trying to be some serious, artsy-fartsy work, but rather a fun piece of cinema. Do I recommend this? Yes, for it is good, clean fun that everyone can enjoy, so give it a shot sometime!

4 out of 5 stars

 

 

A League of Their Own

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 7, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1992, an elderly, widowed Dottie Hinson reluctantly attends the opening of the new All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) exhibit at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. She sees many of her former teammates and friends, prompting a flashback to 1943.

When World War II threatens to shut down Major League Baseball, candy magnate and Chicago Cubs owner Walter Harvey creates a women’s league to make money. Ira Lowenstein is put in charge and Ernie Capadino is sent out to recruit players.

Capadino goes to an industrial-league softball game in rural Oregon and likes what he sees in the catcher, Dottie. She is a terrific hitter and very attractive. He offers her a tryout, but she is content working in a dairy and on the family farm while her husband, Bob, fights in the war. He is less impressed with her younger sister, pitcher Kit Keller, who is desperate to go. He lets her come along when she persuades Dottie to change her mind. He also checks out Marla Hooch, a great switch-hitting slugger in Fort Collins, Colorado. Because Marla is unattractive, he rejects her, but relents when Dottie and Kit refuse to go on without her and her father makes an impassioned plea.

When the trio arrive at the tryouts in Chicago, they meet taxi dancer “All the Way” Mae Mordabito and her best friend, Doris Murphy, both tough-talking New Yorkers; soft-spoken right fielder Evelyn Gardner; illiterate and shy left fielder Shirley Baker; and pitcher and former Miss Georgia Ellen Sue Gotlander. They and eight others are selected to form the Rockford Peaches, while 48 others are split among the Racine Belles, Kenosha Comets and South Bend Blue Sox.

The Peaches are managed by Jimmy Dugan, a former marquee Cubs slugger who lost his career due to alcohol. Drunk and self-pitying, he neglects managerial chores. Dottie acts as captain-manager until Jimmy wakes from his stupor and begins to give and earn her respect, the team’s, and his own.

The league attracts little interest at first. Lowenstein tells the Peaches that the owners are having second thoughts. With a Life magazine photographer attending a game, Lowenstein begs them to do something spectacular. Dottie obliges when a ball is popped up behind home plate, catching it while doing a split. The resulting photograph makes the cover of the magazine. A publicity campaign draws more people to the ballgames, but the owners remain unconvinced.

As the Peaches establish themselves as the class of the league, the sibling rivalry between sisters Dottie and Kit intensifies: Kit resents being overshadowed by Dottie. Things come to a head when Jimmy pulls Kit for a relief pitcher on Dottie’s advice. After a heated argument between Dottie and Kit, Dottie tells Lowenstein she is thinking about quitting. Horrified at the prospect of losing his star, Lowenstein promises to arrange a trade and sends Kit to Racine, much to her dismay. She blames Dottie for the trade and has another argument with her before departing.

Prior to a game, the Peaches’ utility player, Betty “Spaghetti” Horn, is informed that her husband has been killed in action in the Pacific Theatre; the same evening, Dottie’s husband Bob appears, having been honorably discharged after being wounded in Italy. The following morning, Jimmy discovers that Dottie is returning to Oregon with Bob. He tells her she will regret her decision.

The team continues without Dottie, and makes it to the World Series against Kit’s Racine Belles. The Belles initially take a 3-1 lead in the series before the Peaches win twice in a row to force a deciding seventh game. Dottie unexpectedly rejoins the team for the game. Racine leads 1-0 going into the ninth inning when Dottie hits Kit’s pitch over her head, driving in two runs. Kit comes up to bat with her team trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth with two out. Dottie tells Ellen Sue about Kit’s weakness for chasing high fastballs. After swinging at and missing the first two pitches, Kit hits a line drive into left-center field and rounds the bases, ignoring a stop signal from the third base coach. Dottie fields the throw to the plate, but Kit slams into her, knocking the ball out of her hand to score the winning run. The sellout crowd convinces Harvey to give Lowenstein the owners’ support. After the game, the sisters reconcile before Dottie leaves to raise a family.

In the present day, Mae and Doris spot Dottie and confirm her identity with a throw that she catches barehanded as on her first arrival at the 1943 tryouts. She is reunited with several other players, including Kit, whom she hasn’t seen in several years. The fates of several of the characters are revealed: Jimmy, Bob and Evelyn have died, while Marla has been married to Nelson, one of the team’s groupies, for over 40 years. The Peaches sing their team song composed by one of them and pose for a group photo.

REVIEW:

Baseball season just started, so I figured it was time to watch a baseball movie. I’ve been meaning to go back and watch one of my favorite baseball films, A League of Their Own, for quite some time and since it just came back on instant streaming, the timing couldn’t be better. I have fond memories of this film, but do those memories stand the test of time, as it has been a few years since I last watched this picture.

What is this about?

Two small-town sisters join an all-female baseball league formed when World War II brings professional baseball to a standstill. As their team hits the road with its drunken coach, the siblings find troubles and triumphs on and off the field.

What did I like?

Spotlight. Everybody knows about the major and minor leagues and most have at least heard of the Negro leagues, especially after watching 42, but during WWII, there was almost a complete shutdown of baseball. In an effort to keep the game going while our boys (now our grandfathers and great-grandfathers) were away fighting the good fight, an idea was tossed out there to have a women’s baseball league, the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. To my knowledge, this film is the only time the league has received any kind of spotlight, and for that this film is remarkable and historically significant.

Cast. The cast that was assembled for this film is outstanding. They play their roles perfectly, all without seeming as if they need something more. Geena Davis is the star, no doubt, but there is no underestimating the strong performance of Tom Hanks, and great support from the likes of Madonna, Rosie O’Donnell, and Lori Petty (more on her later). Watching this I really felt as if they took that old adage, “There is no ‘I’ in team”, to heart.

Respect. Bookending the film are modern day segments that show the Pro Baseball Hall of Fame opening a wing for the Girls’ League. Two things about this, first the actress they got to play the older version of Geena Davis’ character is a dead ringer for her. I’ve always thought that was actually her, but in makeup, rather than another actress. Kudos to the casting director for finding that lady. Second, in the ending credits, we see actual women that played in the league back in the day playing baseball as Madonna’s most beautiful song, “This Used to Be My Playground” plays. What can I say, other than this was a masterful piece of directing by Penny Marshall.

What didn’t I like?

Teams. I know there weren’t many teams, but it seems like the Rockford Peaches were always playing the Racine Belles. Almost every game the team they were playing were wearing those yellow and brown uniforms. Eventually, in montage form, we see them play some other clubs, but it all comes back to Racine in the end. I have to wonder what the obsession with Belles was. The other teams should have received a bit more attention, in my eyes.

Nuisance. Little sister Lori Petty does nothing but bitch and moan about being her sister’s shadow the whole movie. I can understand her pain to a certain extent, but there is no reason to keep going on and on and on and on and on….about it. There comes a point where she went from the plucky little sister to a nuisance, and I already wasn’t a fan of her character, so that didn’t help, either.

Mean girls. Compared to Geena Davis and some of the other girls in the film, Megan Cavanagh is not as pretty, many would agree with that, but the way the film constantly points that out is unnecessary and cruel. Pretty much from the moment she is introduced all the film does is use her looks as a joke. At one point they even show close-ups of all the girls, but when it comes to her they show her from a distance. A friend of mine pointed out, she doesn’t look that much different from Rosie O’Donnell, and yet there was no shame in showing plenty of scenes with her. At least they found a guy for Cavanagh and they got married because I am sure the jokes at the expense of her looks would have kept going.

Reading some reviews of A League of Their Own, there is apparently some debate about whether or not this is a chick flick. I actually asked a couple of my female friends about this and it was 50/50 on both sides. That debate will keep going for quite some time, I believe. In the meantime, I cannot think of any reason to not recommend this film, so rather than waste words, I’m just going to say check it out!

5 out of 5 stars

Oldboy (2013)

Posted in Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , on April 6, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1993, alcoholic advertising executive Joe Doucett (Josh Brolin) ruins a meeting with a potential client, Daniel Newcombe (Lance Reddick), by hitting on his girlfriend. Afterwards, Joe gets drunk, and goes to a bar owned by his friend Chucky (Michael Imperioli ), who refuses him entry. While stuck outside, he spots a woman with a yellow umbrella, before being knocked unconscious.

He awakens in an isolated hotel room and finds he is a prisoner. His captors provide him with basic hygiene items and meager portions of processed Chinese food, along with a pint of vodka with every meal to prevent withdrawal. Through the TV, Joe hears that he has been framed for the rape and murder of his ex-wife and that his daughter, Mia, has been adopted. After being prevented from committing suicide, Joe starts writing Mia letters, gives up drinking, and spends the next 20 years planning his revenge. He becomes a skilled boxer by watching televised matches, and compiles a list of everyone who might be responsible for his imprisonment, with Newcombe being the prime suspect.

In 2013, Joe watches an adult Mia being interviewed by a TV show called “Unresolved Mysteries of Crime”, and claiming she’d be willing to forgive him if he returns. Suddenly, he is drugged and awakes in a box in a field, with money and a cell phone. He spots the woman with the yellow umbrella, whom he chases to a nearby clinic; there he meets Marie Sebastian (Elizabeth Olsen), a nurse who offers to help him. Joe refuses help but takes her card. He later visits Chucky and tells him what happened. He receives a mocking phone call from the mastermind behind his imprisonment, The Stranger (Sharlto Copley). After learning Newcombe died in a plane crash, Joe investigates the other names on his list, and learns they are all innocent. He eventually passes out from dehydration, and Chucky calls Marie, who gives Joe medical treatment.

Marie reads the letters Joe has written for Mia and offers to help him. With her, Joe is able to locate the restaurant that provided the food he was given in captivity and follows a man who arrives to take a large order to an abandoned factory, which is where he was held captive. Joe confronts the owner, Chaney (Samuel L. Jackson), and tortures him into giving him a taped conversation in which he discusses the terms of Joe’s imprisonment with The Stranger. Joe is then forced to fight off all of Chaney’s men, one of whom stabs him in the back. Joe then returns to Chucky’s bar, where he meets The Stranger himself and his bodyguard Haeng-Bok, the woman with the yellow umbrella, who has kidnapped Mia.

The Stranger claims that if Joe is able to discover his real identity and his motives for imprisoning Joe, he will not only release Mia but also give Joe proof of his innocence along with $20 million in diamonds. He also promises to shoot himself while allowing Joe to watch. After The Stranger leaves, Joe rushes to Marie’s house and saves her from Chaney and his men. Marie digitally identifies The Stranger’s ringtone as being the theme song of Joe’s college, and, through a yearbook, Joe is able to determine that The Stranger’s real name is Adrian Pryce. Back when they were classmates, Joe saw Adrian’s sister Amanda having sex with an older man and mentioned it to many students at the college. The man was later revealed to be Adrian and Amanda’s father, who was having incestuous relationships with them both. Shortly afterward, Adrian’s father murdered his wife and Amanda, attempted to murder Adrian, and then committed suicide. Adrian, the sole survivor, blamed Joe and swore revenge against him.

Joe hides Marie in a motel, where they have sex, while Adrian finds and kills Chucky. Joe later goes to Adrian’s penthouse and kills Haeng-Bok. Adrian congratulates Joe on discovering the truth. Then Adrian reveals to Joe that “Mia” is actually an actress on his payroll and that Joe’s real daughter is Marie. Horrified by what Adrian has engineered him to do, Joe begs for death, but Adrian instead gives him the diamonds and, having exacted his revenge, commits suicide. Joe writes Marie a letter, stating they can never meet again, and leaves her all but a few of the diamonds, which he gives to Chaney in exchange for returning to captivity—supposedly for the rest of his life.

REVIEW:

In 2003, a Korean film was released that went on to be revolutionary in terms of horror and thrillers. That film was Oldboy. Fast forward 10 years and we get a US remake by acclaimed thriller director Spike Lee (note the sarcasm there). I am by no means a fan of Lee’s, but I will try to keep this objective as best I can.

What is this about?

After being unaccountably held captive for years, Joe Doucett is suddenly released. Now, his only mission is to hunt down and punish his captors. Aided by a young stranger, he sets about unlocking his past in this remake of a popular Korean thriller.

What did I like?

Violence. I’m not a fan of films that go out of their way to show blood, guts and gore, unless it is done in a comedic and over the top way such as Machete, for instance. In an effort, to keep the spirit of the original, Lee left in the bloody violence, at least a part of it, even though American audiences seem to squirm at the mere sight of blood, if you go by the watered down versions of films we’ve been getting these days. Thank goodness someone realized that American audiences aren’t as sensitive as they are perceived to be.

Torture. Staying in that same general vein, there is a scene in which Josh Brolin’s character tortures Samuel L. Jackson. Yeah, its a torture scene, big deal, right? Well, this is something to take note of because Brolin has him tied down to a table and rather than chop his head off, he carves out chunks of skin, slowly but surely, and then takes a can of salt and dashes it on the wounds. Talk about painful!!! After he gets his information, he washes away with some water, but damn, that had to hurt!

Witch in training. Elizabeth Olsen is primed for a real breakout couple of years with some of the projects she has lines, most notable The Avengers: Rise of Ultron, but I was wondering what it is that qualifies her for such lofty roles. I got my answer watching her in this. From what I gather, she is quite the capable actress. able to convey a wide range of emotions to the audience and she’s not bad looking either. I find her to be a mix between Maggie Gyllenhaal, that chick on Bates Motel (her name escapes me right now), and her obviously less talented sisters. I won’t go so far as to say her performance saved this film, but she is a reason to watch.

What didn’t I like?

Pacing. I honestly don’t think this film could have started any slower. After a brief introduction to our protagonist and his downward spiral, we are shown him in this one room eating chicken and dumplings with vodka for 20 years. 20 years in the same room! I get stir crazy sitting in the same room for 20 minutes, I can only imagine what 20 years was like. That’s beside the point, though, as this could have very easily been done in montage form, pausing now and then to show the pain anguish he was facing, rather than dragging on and on as it does.

Incest is best. The recurring theme of incest is a bit much for me, partly because this is the second film in a row that has dealt with it. Now, I will say if I’d been stuck in a room for 20 yrs and then this hot young thing threw herself at me, I’d have done the same thing that Brolin’s character does to her. As far as he knew, she was just another girl. Hindsight gave me cause to pause on that, though. It is the tragic story of our antagonist’s motives that got me. His dad was having sex with his daughter at some school dance or something and got caught. I can imagine that would be something that would change a man, but damn.

Scaled back. I can’t remember if I’ve seen the original Oldboy or not. I want to say that I have, but I’m not 100% sure. At any rate, I know that this film doesn’t work on the same levels as its source material. There is a dark, menace to that film that isn’t as prevalent with this picture. I attribute that to Lee’s directing. A more accomplished director would have been able to pull it off, but instead we get a watered down version of the original, in the same vein as the 1998 version of Psycho, which was a word for word, shot by shot remake. It didn’t get the best of receptions, either.

In conclusion, Oldboy is a departure for Lee. Believe it or not, there are no racist undertones in this film at all. As a matter of fact, I believe this is most unethnic cast he has used, which is odd for him. This is not my usual genre of film, and my disdain for Lee did not make this any more enjoyable. That being said, this is not a totally unbearable film, but I do think you’d be better served watching the original.

2 out of 5 stars

 

Die, Mommie, Die!

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Spoofs & Satire with tags , , , , , , on April 6, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film opens with Angela Arden kneeling in front of her twin sister Barbara’s grave. Angela is a lounge singer who is attempting to resuscitate her floundering career, which became obsolete around the same time Barbara committed suicide. She’s unhappily married to her film director husband Sol Sussman, with whom they have two children–Lance, who is gay and emotionally disturbed, and Edith, a “daddy’s girl” who is openly contemptuous of her mother. Also living in the house is the snoopy maid Bootsie, who is infatuated with Sol. Bored and unhappy, Angela begins cheating on her husband with Tony Parker, a tennis-playing “lothario” and failed actor who is reputed to be well endowed.

Sol finds out after hiring a private detective to follow Angela around. He confronts her about it but he refuses to divorce her. Instead, he gives her “life in prison”. Not only does he cancel all of Angela’s credit cards, he forbids her from performing at an engagement in New York, destroying the contract before she has a chance to sign it. Feeling trapped and eager to get her hands on her husband’s money, Angela poisons an ever-constipated Sol with an arsenic-laced suppository.

Despite the fact that Angela receives virtually nothing in Sol’s will, her children, along with Bootsie, begin to suspect Angela’s involvement. And the suspicious circumstances of Sol’s death bring old questions about Angela’s sister’s death to light. Edith–and later Lance–hatch a plot to get her to confess. Meanwhile, Tony successfully seduces both the children, taking an unusual interest in the details surrounding Aunt Barbara’s death. After Bootsie is found dead, the children eventually get Angela to confess her crimes by lacing her evening coffee with LSD.

During her bender, Angela not only reveals that she poisoned Sol, but that she is not Angela but really Barbara. In flashback, Barbara reveals how as Angela’s career flourish, her own fell apart, culminating in her arrest for jewelry theft. After serving her sentence, Barbara arrived at Angela’s mansion, greeted with scorn and ridicule from the immensely egotistical Angela. Watching the physical and emotional abuse Angela doled out to Sol and the children, Barbara devised a plan to poison her sister and take over her life, her family and, most importantly, her career. The children watch with confusion as Barbara announces she killed Angela.

As they turn the tape over to Tony, Edith and Lance fight over who will be the one to run away with him, while he respectfully refuses both of them. Meanwhile, a masked assailant pops up and tries to dispatch Barbara; in the scuffle, Barbara pulls off the assailant’s mask, revealing Sol underneath. With all the primary players in the room, Sol reveals how he and Bootsie faked his death for him to escape outstanding mob debts he couldn’t pay back and how he was forced to kill Bootsie to protect his secret. Tony then reveals he is really an FBI agent who’s been heading a case investigation Angela’s murder before arresting Sol. The children – finally understanding Barbara’s motives and desperation – hug Barbara while Tony says he will destroy the evidence to protect her from an eventual prison stint and trip to the gas chamber. But Barbara tells them, as she walks to her waiting police escort outside, that by finally being herself, she will finally gain her freedom from living under her sister’s shadow

REVIEW:

I told a friend that I was watching a film called Die, Mommie, Die! and they joked that I should’ve waited until Mother’s Day to do this one. The irony of that statement is not lost on me. As a matter of fact, I kind of wish I had held it off. So, I’m sure you haven’t heard anything about this film, but maybe my words here will encourage or discourage you from hunting down a copy.

What is this about?

The year is 1967, and Angela Arden (cross-dresser Charles Busch) is a washed-up pop singer who’s married to Sol (Philip Baker Hall) but is involved with an unemployed actor named Tony (Jason Priestley). When Sol turns up dead, all fingers point to Angela. Leading the charge is Angela’s daughter Edith (Natasha Lyonne), who’s eager to get even by killing her mother. Edith’s brother (Stark Sands), however, is not so sure that mom is to blame.

What did I like?

Homage. They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. In that case, the likes of Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, and actresses that have played similar characters should be very flattered after they watch this. Not only does it pay respect to those film, but it also serves as a bit of a spoof on the genre, or subgenre, I should say.

Kind of a drag. Looking at the star of this film, you would never guess she was a guy in drag, until he starts talking and you get a closer look. It is that deception which is important to sell this film. Let’s face it, some people are just too closed-minded to accept watching a film that stars a guy in drag, but if they can be tricked into picking this up, not knowing what they’re getting into, then that is a feat in itself. What is remarkable about having the star be a bit of a gender bender is that none of the supporting casts seems to acknowledge that she is a he. As a matter of fact, Jason Priestly even kisses him, showing that there is no weirdness there.

Overacting. At first, I thought the overacting that these actors were doing was a bit much, but as the film went on, it dawned on me that it was part of what works for this film. The overacting was a spoof on old films of the era that this flick was spoofing. As someone who had spent quite some time watching films from the bygone era, I can appreciate the film having fun with what was a different way of acting and performing.

What didn’t I like?

The play’s this thing. At times this seems like it is a play translated to the big screen. The irony about that is that it would be another 4 years before this would become a play. I am taking into consideration the fact that the acting throughout the film is wooden and over the top, which is partly done on purpose, it is the delivery of these lines that bothers me, as it doesn’t come off as natural, but rather like they might as well have been reading the teleprompter, rather than memorizing their lines.

I remember him. Back in the 90s, Jason Priestley was a teen heartthrob. After Beverly Hills, 90210 ended, though, he seemed to have disappeared from public view, appearing in sporadic guest appearances but nothing notable, at least that comes to mind. It was good to see the guy working again, but I wonder if this was nothing more than stunt casting, meant to bring in a “name” actor. I’m not so sure they got the desired result, despite a fairly solid performance from Priestley.

Plot. Had this been a more, shall we say, respectable flick, this plot would not have seemed so bad, but because this is in a spoof that seems to be trying to take itself a little too seriously, it just doesn’t seem to work as well as it should. This is the kind of melodrama that we see from films that this flick is spoofing, but the difference is they do it well. By the time this film finally gets into a groove with the plot, it then rushes things in the final scene so that everything can be wrapped up in a nice little package, just like almost every other film seems to do.

In the mood for a spoof featuring a guy dressed up as a woman who embodies the characteristic of the strong, evil type women from films such as Mommy Dearest? Die, Mommie, Die! is the perfect film for you. Unfortunately, that was not to be the case with me. I didn’t hate this picture, but it sure didn’t do anything for me. As a matter of fact, other than a fresh-faced Natasha Lyonne and some nice jazz vocal charts, there really isn’t much that interested me. Still, if this is the kind of flick that appeals to you, go ahead and give it a shot.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

About Time

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Movie Reviews, Romantic with tags , , , , , , , , on April 5, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

At the age of 21, Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson) is told by his father (Bill Nighy) that the men in his family can travel in time. There are a few conditions: they can only travel backward in time, and only to places they have actually been. Upon learning this, Tim goes back to the night of a recent New Year’s Eve party where at midnight he had been too shy to kiss someone and rectifies the situation. After being discouraged from using it to acquire money and fame, he decides that he will use this ability to help his love life.

The following summer, Charlotte (Margot Robbie), the beautiful friend of Tim’s sister Kit Kat, comes to stay with the family. Tim has an instant attraction and at the end of her stay, decides to let her know. She tells him that he left it too late to do anything, and so Tim travels back to an earlier point. This time, Charlotte says that they should wait until her last day and talk again. Heartbroken, Tim realises that she is not attracted to him and that time travel will not be able to help change her mind.

Tim moves to London to pursue a career as a lawyer and stays with an acquaintance of his father, Harry, a misanthropic playwright. After some months, Tim and his friend Jay visit a Dans le Noir establishment, where Tim meets Mary (Rachel McAdams), and the two fall for each other. He gets her phone number and returns home to find out Harry’s play’s opening night was a disaster as the lead actor forgot his lines. Tim then goes back in time and attends the play and, after many complications, ensures it is a success.

Later, Tim attempts to call Mary only to find her number is not in his phone. He realises that by going to the play instead of the restaurant he never met Mary. Remembering something from the date, Tim eventually locates Mary and learns that she has a boyfriend (met after the night of the play). Tim decides to go back to the point where she met her boyfriend and ensures she goes out with him instead. They become a couple.

On a night out with his friend Rory, Tim meets Charlotte again. After time travelling several times to prevent and do over multiple awkward conversation mishaps, Tim walks her back to her apartment and she invites him inside. Tim turns her down and runs back to his apartment and proposes to Mary. She accepts, and they learn later that she is pregnant.

On the first birthday of Mary and Tim’s daughter, Posy, Tim’s sister Kit Kat crashes her car after a row with her obnoxious boyfriend, Jimmy. Tim, deciding it best she never met him, tells her about his ability to time-travel and takes her back to make sure they never meet, but upon returning to present time finds that altering the timeline means that Tim never had Posy. Instead, a boy was born in her place. After speaking to his father, Tim learns that once his child was born, travelling back to a time before the child’s birth will in fact stop that child from ever being born, as time will happen differently in every aspect of his life and a different child will be conceived each time. Tim reluctantly changes things back to the way they were and has to watch Kit Kat go through the pain of breaking up with Jimmy to ensure Posy is born. Kit Kat begins to put her life back together, Tim sets her up with his kind friend Jay, and the two become a couple. Tim and Mary have another child.

One day, Tim learns that his father has terminal cancer due to smoking and that time travel cannot change it as he started before Tim and Kit Kat were born. His father has known for quite some time but kept travelling back in time to effectively extend his life and spend more time with his family, but his time is running out, though he is ready to pass away. Eventually his father dies, but before he does his father tells Tim to re-live each day, once with all the stresses a normal person faces, and then again knowing what to expect from the day, and to embrace it and enjoy it. Tim follows his advice and keeps travelling back into the past to visit his dad whenever he misses him.

Eventually, Mary wishes to have another child. Tim also wants another but knows doing so means he won’t be able to visit his father in the past again after the baby is born, but he agrees and Mary becomes pregnant. After visiting his dad for the following nine months, the time eventually comes for Mary to give birth, Tim goes back and lets his father know that this is the last time he will visit him. They then both travel back in time together when Tim was a small boy and relive a fond memory of them playing on the beach. Tim comes to realise that it is better to live each day once as if he was an ordinary person and as if he has deliberately travelled back in time to be there. The film ends with Tim getting his three children ready for school.

REVIEW:

Before the holidays, About Time was released, but it wasn’t a hit. As a matter of fact, I don’t believe it has made its budget back. With that said, though, this is the kind of film that is perfect for those that like to see their favorite novels appear on the big screen, or are fans of non-cheesy, borderline drama romantic comedies. However, is there anything for the general fan to enjoy? Is it any good?

What is this about?

A young man who comes from a family of time-travelers changes history for the better in this romantic comedy from director Richard Curtis. During one of his trips to the past, he falls for a woman played by Rachel McAdams.

What did I like?

Time travel. We’ve all had those moments where we wish we could go back just a few minutes and do or say something different. Well, that is the major selling point of this film for me. This guy, played by Domhall Gleeson, is part of a family that is able to travel through time. I can’t tell you how many times I wished I could go back and change something, especially if I could do it without consequences, as we are led to believe (more on that later).

Balance. There seems to be a nice balance among this film between the comedy, touching moments, heavy drama, and even a couple of “off-color” comments, for lack of a better term. Not very often we get a film that manages to strike such a perfect balance among those elements, so kudos to this film for doing such an impossible feat. My initial thoughts were that this was going to turn into some sappy, chick flick, tear jerker.

Rachel. I’ve had my eye on Rachel McAdams since Mean Girls. What an actress she has grown into, let me tell you. This isn’t the best material for her, but it allows her to flex her chops with some juicy and emotional scenes, including one where she is able to display the insecurities that every woman seems to have about what they look like in their clothes and what their significant other thinks about what they look like. I don’t know why, but I found this to be quite a poignant observation on her part that helped us to connect with her character a little better.

What didn’t I like?

Rules. As with every time travel movie, book, TV show, or whatever, there are rules that have to be followed, or everything falls apart. I mentioned earlier that there really aren’t any rules for these time travelers. Well, for a good portion of the film, that is what we are led to believe, but conveniently in the second half of the film, it is introduced that once they have a kid, they can never go past the birth. Something about that specific sperm, I believe. I don’t have an issue with that rule, but rather that is seemed to be conveniently introduced after the child was born. Could we have not gotten than in the first place?

Sister. Why is it that every film of this nature has some sort of sibling drama that seems to all but bring the film to a complete stop, and it usually happens around a wedding or other important event. The free spirit sister has an issue with her boyfriend beating her, which is no laughing matter, but my goodness did that whole segment bring things down, especially since she was such a light character. Having her go through such unfortunate events was not a good choice, in my opinion, but given the weight that this film wants to have, would it have really hurt to have someone who was a true free spirit?

Charm only goes so far. There is no question that this film is extremely charming, but that doesn’t excuse it for what some have said is “reassuringly bland.” I want to defend this film, but I just can’t bring my self to do so because it is pretty much the equivalent of an unsalted cracker. It provides sustenance, and you can add some stuff on top of it, such as time travel, but in the end all you have is a flatlining, somewhat boring film.

Surprisingly more entertaining that I expected, About Time delivered on all that it promised. However, the plotholes and genericness that it possesses will keep me from returning to this world and watching it again. Does that mean that I will steer others from seeing it? No, as a matter of fact, I think many who are more into this type of film will really get a kick out of it, so go ahead and give it a shot. You may enjoy it more than you think!

3 out of 5 stars

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 5, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Two years after the events of The Avengers, Steve Rogers lives in Washington, D.C., continues to work for the espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D., and struggles to adapt to contemporary society. After meeting and befriending former Pararescue war veteran and PTSD counselor Sam Wilson on a morning jog, Rogers is called to help save a S.H.I.E.L.D. vessel from Algerian pirates led by Georges Batroc. Aboard, he discovers fellow agent Natasha Romanoff extracting data from the ship’s computers, something Rogers was not briefed on. At S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, Nick Fury introduces Rogers to Project Insight; three Helicarriers linked to spy satellites and designed to preemptively eliminate threats.

Due to heightened encryption, Fury is unable to access the data Romanoff recovered. On his way to rendezvous with Maria Hill, he is ambushed by assailants disguised as police officers, led by a mysterious assassin called the Winter Soldier. Fury escapes, sneaks into Rogers’ apartment, and informs Rogers that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been compromised. After Fury hands Rogers the USB flash drive with the data from the ship, he is gunned down by the Winter Soldier. Rogers gives chase, and his neighbor reveals herself as S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Agent 13. Fury appears to die in surgery, and Hill recovers the body.

The next day, Rogers is summoned by senior S.H.I.E.L.D. official Alexander Pierce. When Rogers withholds Fury’s information, Pierce brands him a fugitive. Hunted by the agency, Rogers meets with Romanoff. Using data in the flash drive they discover an old S.H.I.E.L.D. underground base in New Jersey. There, they activate a supercomputer containing the preserved consciousness of Arnim Zola, who reveals that since S.H.I.E.L.D. was founded after World War II, HYDRA secretly operated within its ranks, sowing chaos across the world in the hope that humanity would willingly surrender its freedom in exchange for safety. Rogers and Romanoff narrowly escape death when a S.H.I.E.L.D. missile destroys the bunker.

They enlist the help of Wilson, and acquire his old “Falcon” winged-flight exoskeleton. After deducing that senior S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jasper Sitwell is with HYDRA, they interrogate him until he reveals Zola developed a data-mining algorithm that can identify individuals who might become future opponents to HYDRA’s plans. The new helicarriers will sweep the country, eliminating these individuals with their satellite-guided guns.

En route to S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, they are ambushed by the Winter Soldier. In the fight, Winter Soldier loses his mask and Rogers recognizes him as Bucky, his old World War II comrade. They are captured by S.H.I.E.L.D. but are rescued by a disguised Hill. She leads them to a hideout where they discover Fury is alive and planning a mission to prevent Pierce from launching Project Insight by replacing a chip within each Helicarrier to override their satellite control.

After members of the World Security Council arrive for the Helicarriers’ launch, Pierce holds them hostage and reveals HYDRA’s true motives. Rogers and Wilson storm two Helicarriers and replace the controllers, but the Winter Soldier destroys Wilson’s suit and confronts Rogers at the third. They fight, with Rogers trying to revive Bucky’s memories. Meanwhile, Fury and Romanoff confront Pierce and force him to unlock access to S.H.I.E.L.D’s database so Romanoff can expose HYDRA’s motives to the public by leaking classified information. After a brief conflict, Fury shoots Pierce dead. Aboard the third Helicarrier, a wounded Rogers replaces the final controller, allowing Hill to override the satellite operation and have all three vessels destroy one another. The Helicarrier carrying Rogers and the Winter Soldier crashes into the side of the Triskelion, where Wilson battles compromised agent Rumlow, who had earlier tried to capture Rogers.

Rogers falls off the vessel into the river. Slowly remembering his past, the Winter Soldier pulls Rogers from the water before disappearing. With S.H.I.E.L.D. in disarray, Fury destroys the last traces of his identity before heading to Europe in pursuit of HYDRA’s remaining cells under the cover of his apparent death. Romanoff appears before a Senate subcommittee and later gives Rogers a dossier on the Winter Soldier program. Both Rogers and Wilson decide to track down the Winter Soldier.

A mid-credits scene takes place in a HYDRA lab, where Baron von Strucker is keeping Loki’s scepter and two prisoners: one with superhuman speed, the other with telekinetic powers. In a post-credits scene, the Winter Soldier visits the Captain America exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution to learn of his past.

REVIEW:

The day has finally arrived, my most anticipated film of 2014, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, has arrived…and with great fanfare! I loved Captain America: The First Avenger, partially because of the era in which it was set in and partly because it was just an entertaining film. I’ve been wondering how this would be able to follow that up, especially with it being in modern times.

What is this about?

Extending the saga of Marvel’s The Avengers, this superhero sequel finds Steve Rogers living quietly in Washington but growing increasingly restless. So when a deadly new foe surfaces, he transforms into Captain America and allies with Black Widow.

What did I like?

Bucking the trend. Have you noticed with most of the superhero films of late that the heroes have been doing all they can to not be the heroes they are anymore? Batman, Iron Man, Kick-Ass, Hellboy, Green Lantern, and most recently Superman have had this identity crisis. Thor seems to be the only one immune, but he has his own other issues to deal with. With Captain America, a guy who went through hell and back just to try to be able to enlist in the Army, being a super soldier is his dream. Cap’s issue is that his ideals don’t fit in with today’s world. As someone who is often told they belong in another time, I relate. Thank goodness, the writers were smart enough to realize that Captain America is above self-doubt, although he does have his doubts about the organization he works for.

Action. Man, oh man! The action we’ve all be clamoring for in these comic book films we finally get in this one. Captain America kicks all sorts of ass, and in different ways. In the first fight he has with Batroc the Leaper, played by MMA fighter Georges St. Pierre, we see Cap utilize some brawling, boxing, kickboxing, parkour, and martial arts moves. That is nothing compared to the elevator scene, the car chase involving Nick Fury, or the many other fights, chases, and other actions scenes that we get throughout the film.

True to character. Regardless of what you may think of these directors, who are best known for directing episodes of Community, you can’t deny that their devotion to this character paid off. Yes, this is a darker film than the previous film, but not so much that it changes who the character is. The Dark Knight was a game changer for superhero films (and is still highly overrated), yes, but it should not be the gold standard by which all comic book movies are held. As the Marvel films have proven, it is possible to be true to the character, tell a great story, and have some fun along the way. As proven with Man of Steel, DC hasn’t figured this out yet, and the one time they did, Green Lantern, they just didn’t have a good enough story. Back to my point, Captain America is not some dark, brooding anti-hero. He is a soldier, not a boy scout, but from a different time, and because of this, he needs to be written with that in mind, a tidbit that lends itself to some light moments, such as Black Widow spending the whole film trying to find him a date (not really sure why she wasn’t available).

Falcon. Introducing new characters can be a good or bad thing, especially when that character is one that had they adhered strictly to the original comic design is…well, it just wouldn’t have worked. I have to hand it to Anthony Mackie, he brought it as a sort of comic relief to the more stoic and serious Captain America, but more importantly, the revamped backstory he was given worked. A paratrooper that was given these experimental wings and he was able to fight as he said, “…same as Cap…only slower.”

Nefarious. I have to say, this plot that HYDRA comes up with is about as evil as one can be. I’m not going to explain all the intricate details, just know that the return of Dr. Zola (sort of in the form that he is known for in the comics) leads to the audience getting the full scoop on what the plan is. The short version is that the evil organization, HYDRA has infiltrated and taken over S.H.I.E.L.D. and is now planning on using three satellite controlled helicarriers armed to the teeth to destroy anyone that doesn’t fit their ideal mold for what they think is the superior man. Sound familiar? Well, they were created under the Nazi regime by the Red Skull, remember? Maybe I’ve played too much Assassin’s Creed, but these guys sound a little bit like Templars, too.

What didn’t I like?

Theme. Alan Silvestri did not return to compose the score for this film due to other commitments. His replacement doesn’t really do it for me, but I’m not sure that’s his fault. You see, in the original film, Captain America is given a very heroic theme song, and it could very well have worked with the film. They do use it in the opening scene when Cap is jogging and passing the man who would become Falcon. For me, the music works, but I feel there were moments when the heroic “Captain America March” would have serves much better than the current score, which doesn’t deliver until the credits roll.

She’s back? When they announced the initial casting for this film, Hayley Atwell’s Peggy Carter wasn’t said to be returning. I won’t spoil anything about her return except saying that it is a bittersweet. On one hand, she is one of the few friends Cap has and may very well be his only friend from the old days. On the other hand, there is a disease that afflicts her that breaks you heart when you see it happen to her. At least they didn’t go the Captain America route and kill her so they can replace her with her niece, who actually plays a somewhat major role in this film (and perhaps the future?)

Winter Soldier. The supposed primary antagonist isn’t given much screentime. At least not enough to justify getting such heavy billing. This is really a shame, as Winter Soldier is a great character. The storyline in which he is introduced has been considered one of the greatest in comics, and yet the film doesn’t allow him to develop into more than the brainwashed shell of a man that he is, while seemingly focusing entirely on Robert Redford’s character. I would’ve liked a different mixture amongst the antagonists and more fights between Cap and Winter Soldier. They do seem to be evenly matched, after all.

I have yet to read a bad review or hear any negative press about Captain America: The Winter Soldier, except for one article that was Yahoo earlier this week, but that guy came off sounding as more of a hater than anything else. This is one of those few films that manages to live up to the hype. While this may be a superhero film, it also is a sophisticated action spy thriller, but with bits of comedy thrown in there for good measure. This has set the bar pretty high for the rest of the films to be released this year (I’m looking at you X-Men: Days of Future Past and Guardians of the Galaxy), but what a ride it was. I can’t wait to watch it again and hope you rush out and check it out. This is not a film you should be waiting around for it to be released on DVD, so quit reading my random musings and go see it now!

On a side note…look for a certain homage to another Samuel L. Jackson character near the end of the film.

5 out of 5 stars

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