Trailer Thursday 10/16

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on October 16, 2014 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!!!

In my search for horror trailers, I have come across quite a few gems, duds, and some that make no damn sense whatsoever. However, a film that I have received many requests for, both as a trailer and a review is Evil Dead. Have a look at the trailer and see what you think.

Strippers vs. Werewolves

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

PLOT:

When Mickey, the member of a werewolf gang is accidentally killed in a strip club, the girls who work there have until the next full moon before his bloodthirsty wolfpack seek murderous retribution.

REVIEW:

A few years back, there was a film released called Strippers vs. Zombies starring Jenna Jameson. I have yet to see it all the way through, but from what I saw, it was good, campy fun. With Strippers vs. Werewolves (not in the same universe, as far as I know, for those wondering), I was hoping for the same kind of kitschy tone, but did I get it?

What is this about?

When werewolf chief Jack Ferris is accidentally killed in a strip club the girls who work there have until the next full moon before his bloodthirsty wolfpack seek murderous retribution.

What did I like?

Mythology. As much as vampire mythology has been turned every which way but right with every iteration that comes out, werewolves seem to have received the better half of that deal, if you will. In nearly every pop culture version, these furballs are killers who turn at the full moon and can be killed with a silver bullet. I have to give this film kudos for not straying from that formula, although the invincibility factor I had never heard of before watching this film. Since when were werewolves able to put themselves back together after being blown to pieces?

Pack mentality. Wolves travel in packs and in these packs there are sure to be different personalities? In this particular pack, we have a punk, soccer fan, horny fat/muscle guy, Alpha, and the “normal” one who gets the girl…supposedly. Despite the obvious differences, the pack functions as a band of brothers. When one of their own is missing, they spring to action to find him and extract revenge. I found myself drawn to this aspect of their personas, even if I didn’t agree with their reasoning.

What didn’t I like?

False advertising. Not to come off as someone who is letting his hormones do the talking, but in a film that has strippers as the main character, should there be some stripping? I think in this entire film, there were only 2 girls that showed any kind of skin, one was in a dressing room and the other was on a pole, which I believe was done just to placate the audience. Also, realizing that there wasn’t exactly a huge budget for this film, couldn’ the werewolves have looked like something other than bastard offspring of Eddie Munster? Surely we’ve gotten better with makeup since The Munsters, right?

Vampires. So, we have strippers, werewolves, and in some forgotten subplot there is a guy who fights supernatural beings and apparently broke up with one of the strippers. Not really sure how was that important to the proceedings, other than introducing him so he could show up at the end, but let me not get on a tangent. We also have vampires thrust in to the mix. Thankfully, they aren’t anything warring with the werewolves and seemed preoccupied with Van Helsing wannabe, but the fact that they were included serves no purpose. Now, had it turned out that the strippers were actually zombies, that would have been better, but alas, no dice.

Freddy’s dead. This film had two names to draw people in, Page 6 model Lucy Pinder, making her film debut, so we can’t be too hard on her, plus she only has like 3 lines of dialogue. The big name, though, was Robert Englund! Yes, Freddy Krueger is in this film, but we don’t even see him until the last 30 minutes or so and that is only for one scene, not counting a post-credits cameo. I question why they even bothered giving Englund a character if he was to be this underused.

With a title like Strippers vs. Werewolves, who would expect such a serious flick? I just got into a discussion about movies not being fun anymore since Christopher Nolan appeared last night, and this seems to be another example of a film that by all accounts should be a fun romp, but instead is nothing more than a bore. To me, it felt like a child who was full of energy, jumping around all over the place (that is the audience’s expectations), until they do something wrong, get in trouble and are grounded by their parents (what we experience after watching). No, I don’t recommend this to my worst enemy, unless they’re having trouble sleeping. Stay away! Far away!

1 out of 5 stars

Dracula Untold

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

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In an opening montage the son of Vlad the Impaler recounts the history surrounding the legendary character known as Dracula, and how the stories tell of a monster. Seeking to dispel the legend, Vlad the Impaler’s son recounts the events around which the one known as Dracula came to be.

In the middle ages the Sultan of Turkey sought to acquire and train boys in order to turn them into perfect soldiers who would hold no moral or ethical obligations. One such boy was Vlad, who became known as “the impaler” after his use of wooden stakes to display those whom he killed as a form of psychological warfare. Ultimately, Vlad was able to escape from his duty as a soldier, and was made the prince of Transylvania, a tribute territory to the Turkish Empire. While on a scouting mission in the woods Vlad and his team discover a Turkish helmet, and deduce that a scouting party of Turks have entered Transylvania territory. In their search for the party, Vlad and his men enter a cave in the mountains and encounter an ancient sorcerer and master vampire, who subsequently kills Vlad’s men, and drives Vlad out of his lair.

The following day, as Vlad and his subjects celebrate Easter, the Turkish party arrives unexpected. Anticipating that they have come for the tribute, Vlad offers the party silver coins, but the envoy demands that 1,000 boys be given over for service in the Turkish army. Vlad turns down the request, but lacks an effective armed force to compel the Turks to leave Transylvania in peace. After a failed attempt at diplomacy with the Turkish Sultan, Vlad skirmishes with a Turkish party that arrived to take his son for service in Turkish army. Realizing that he will need more power in order to defend his territory and his people, Vlad seeks out the vampire’s cave and explains that he has need of the vampire’s power. After listening to his story and cautioning him about the risks, the Master Vampire offers Vlad some of his blood, which infuses Vlad with the powers of the night. The Master Vampire explains that this power will last for three days, during which time Vlad will be tempted to drink human blood, but if he can withstand the urge for all three days he will be restored to his human form, also warning Vlad that,if Vlad accepts his curse and drink another’s blood, he will be released from his prison.

Upon his return from the cave Vlad observes a Turkish siege of Castle Dracula, and single-handedly takes on the besieging force, killing all but one (whom he leaves alive to deliver a message to the Sultan). Determined to protect his people at all costs, Vlad instructs the party to fall back to a mountain monastery whose geography will hinder any Turkish attempt to take the facility. It is here that Vlad meets Shkelgim, who dubs himself Vlad’s servant and gives him blood, only for Vlad to show hostility and refuse the offer. During the second night, the Transylvanian party is ambushed by Turkish forces, and Vlad and his men engage them. Although victorious in the engagement Vlad’s powers begin to attract attention from his closest advisers. The next day at the monastery, as Vlad attempts to rally his people ahead of the battle, his use of the demonic powers is exposed and the citizens at the monastery subsequently turn on Vlad, attempting to burn him to death in a tent. Angered over this perceived betrayal, Vlad- escaping the tent as the smoke created by the fire blocks out the sun- chastises his people before taking his leave.

That night, a massive Turkish force marches on the monastery. Vlad employs bats to defend the territory, however the incoming Turkish army turns out to be a decoy force deployed to allow a handful of Turks to infiltrate the monastery and kill the citizens within. Mirena’s attempt to defend her son from the Turks fails, and she ultimately falls to her death, despite Vlad’s attempt to save her. Angered over the loss of his wife, Vlad embraces the darkness within himself and honors Mirena’s last request to drink her blood to give him the strength to save their son before his time as a vampire expires. Returning to the monastery to find a handful of survivors, Vlad offers each the chance for vengeance, and gives them his blood to drink.

At the primary Turkish Army camp the Sultan and his men are preparing for a massive invasion of Europe when Vlad and his small band of vampires arrive. A battle erupts between the two forces, however Vlad’s vampires are vastly superior to the Turkish soldiers, and the battle degenerates into a massacre. While the vampires take their vengeance on the Turkish forces Vlad seeks out the Sultan, who has taken his son captive. Aware of the vampire’s weakness to silver, the Sultan has lined the floors of his tent with silver coins, and engages in a battle with Vlad using a silver sword. Ultimately, despite his use of silver to weaken Vlad and a wooden stake to try and impale his heart, the Sultan’s attempt to kill Vlad fails, with Vlad turning briefly into a flock of bats to escape his assault and then drink his blood.

With his enemy vanquished, Vlad and his son emerge from the Sultan’s tent, whereupon they are surrounded by the other vampires Vlad brought. Vlad’s vampires demand to drink the child’s blood, arguing that the child does not matter now that Vlad is prince to the vampires, but they are stopped by the unexpected presence of a Monk, who keeps the vampires at bay with a Christian cross. After consoling his son, Vlad instructs the monk to take him away, then uses his power to clear the cloud coverage. The absence of the clouds results in the death of the vampires as they are unable to withstand the effects of direct sun contact.

In the aftermath of the battle, Vlad is presumed dead and the Turkish army defeated, leaving Europe safe from invasion and occupation. Vlad’s son is crowned the new prince of Transylvania, and the name Dracula is passed down to future generations as a legend. Finding him in his near death state, Shkelgim finds and revives Vlad, who then remains out of the public eye.

In the present day, a woman named Mina who strikingly resembles Mirena is approached by a man who complements her flowers and recites her favorite piece of poetry, seemingly by coincidence. The man introduces himself as “Vlad”, and the two depart together. Unbeknownst to him, the Master Vampire has also survived the centuries of time and proceeds to follow them, reciting the very words that he said to Vlad prior to turning him into a vampire: “Let the games begin.”

REVIEW:

Dracula is perhaps the most revered, respected, and complex characters in the annuls of horror. Part of this is perhaps linked to the fact that, unlike the Invisible Man, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, the Mummy, and the Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula was a real person. Well, he was based on a real person. Dracula Untold takes the history of Vlad the Impaler and the mythos of Dracula’s origins, smashed them together like peanut butter and jelly and gives us a film that may or may not be worthwhile.

What is this about?

Blending elements of history and vampire mythology, this new look at the life of the legendary Dracula explores his origin, from his first foray into darkness to his ultimate evolution as a bloodsucking fiend.

What did I like?

Savagery. Ever since to infernal Twilight movies came out, our vampires have been anything but the savage creatures they are supposed to be. Sure, True Blood had some glimpses here and there, but even with them, they were mainly housewife fodder, to coin a term. The vampires in this film don’t care about anything but feeding and revenge. As you can imagine, this leads to lots of killing, which is what vampires do, rather than sparkle in the sunlight or pontificate upon their feelings for one mysteriously powerful female.

Luke Evans. For this film to work, the guy playing Vlad had to be able to convey compassion, mercy, restraint, repressed anger, etc., as well as give a solid performance. I believe that Luke Evans did a more than adequate job delivering a knockout performance, laying to rest any questions as to whether he is a big enough star to carry a film on his own, one that has no “name” actors, save for Dominic Cooper. Evans’ star has been on the rise since…well, I first saw him in The Three Musketeers. I believe his big leap was in Fast & Furious 6. Evans’ time is now and with this performance, he shows he can take the ball and run with it.

Shock and awe. When I first saw the trailer for this during the early part of the summer, I was quickly taken aback. At first, I thought they had hidden the fact that they were making a movie based on the game Castlevania: Lords of Shadow and its recently released sequel. At times, this film feels like this could have very well been just that. Maybe someone in Hollywood should take notes if they ever decide to pull that trigger. All that aside, the action scenes are fantastic. There is one scene, this is after Evans first gets his powers, where he walks out to face 10,000 Turks on his own, mixing his own renown (and feared) skills with his new vampire powers. It is quite a sight, but this just the beginning, as the other scenes of action, while not as impactful, are just as exciting!

What didn’t I like?

Nobody’s business but the Turks. I’m not sure how historically accurate this film is regarding the Turks, but it seems a bit odd that they were just allowed to take 1000 boys from these kingdoms, train them, and then come back and defeat them with those very boys, who have now been fully brainwashed! Also, in another case of Hollywood not wanting to take the time to find someone of correct ethnic origin, Dominic Cooper is sprayed yellow, so as to appear as if he’s a Turk. The strange thing about this is, his men appear to be authentically ethnic. WTF?!? Hollywood?

Future. In a sort of epilogue to the film, and also something that happens in the aforementioned Castlevania, we are suddenly transported to present day. Personally, I didn’t think was necessary, unless somehow Dracula had come back, turned his son, and they were going live out eternity together. Sadly, that was not the case, as we get Dracula coming across a woman, who coincidentally looks just like his long dead wife, named Mina (a nod to the famous character from the novels). Was this all necessary? I think not, but rumor is they are attempting to start up a rebooted Universal monster “universe”, if you will. Time will tell on that one, though.

Just die already. I know this is a movie and deaths are elongated for dramatic effect and such, but falling from the top of a castle down into a ravine filled with jagged rocks is sure to kill one on impact, and yet Vlad’s wife is able to hang on long enough to spout a few mournful lines and tell him to feed on her. First, let me touch on her living so long. Yes, Vlad dives down to save her, and it is possible he cushioned her fall, but I don’t think he got there in time. This was just drug out for dramatic effect. As far as the feeding goes, the deal was that he had to avoid drinking blood for 3 days. If he managed to do this, he would return to his normal form. All he had to do was make it to sundown and he would have been human again. Instead, his dying wife insists he give up his humanity because she’s dying. I know she was dying and all, but did she not think about their son? Maybe that’s just my weird train of thought, but it seemed a bit insensitive, to me, especially since this whole mess is about trying to protect the boy!

Not since Bram Stoker’s Dracula has Vlad the Impaler’s story been told as well, and in a sympathetic way, as here in Dracula Untold. Yes, liberties were taken, but this is a Dracula movie, not a Vlad biopic. Speaking on the film proper, I found it to be quite entertaining, albeit a little slow in pockets. I do have a bit of a complaint with the old vampire, he went on this long diatribe about how he would hunt down the one who betrayed him, and yet we don’t see him again until the very end of the film. Perhaps he is being setup for something more in the proposed future films? Also, it seems to me that this should have been a much more bloody and violent flick. Perhaps the Pg-13 rating held it back, though. Ugh! I wish studios would stop being so concerned about a “guaranteed audience” and just make the film the way it is meant to me made, but that’s a topic for another day. So, do I recommend this film? Yes, it is October, so you’re more than likely in the mood for something in this, um…vein? Also, there isn’t much coming out right now that is worth watching, as this is when studios release the stuff they didn’t think was good enough for the summer or holiday movie seasons. Check it out, why don’t you?

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

Scooby-Doo

Posted in Comedy, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 11, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In a warehouse, the Mystery, Inc. gang illustrates a plan to catch the Luna Ghost who has kidnapped Daphne Blake (Sarah Michelle Gellar), flying around with her bound and gagged which goes astray but ends with Shaggy Rogers, (Matthew Lillard) and Scooby-Doo, (voiced by Neil Fanning) causing the Ghost to be caught. After solving the mystery, constant arguments among the members of Mystery Incorporated about Fred Jones (Freddie Prinze, Jr.) taking credit for Velma Dinkley’s (Linda Cardellini) ideas cause the gang to go their separate ways, much to the sadness of Shaggy and Scooby. Two years later, Shaggy and Scooby are approached to solve the mystery of the popular horror resort Spooky Island, reuniting with Fred, Daphne and Velma, although none of the latter are thrilled to see each other, except for Shaggy and Scooby, who still want Mystery Incorporated to re-unite. On the island, the gang meets Emile Mondavarious (Rowan Atkinson), the park’s owner, who explains his theory that visitors are being cursed. Shaggy falls in love with a girl named Mary Jane (Isla Fisher), while Scooby is mysteriously targeted by demonic creatures. Velma meets a man named N’Goo Tuana and his henchman, the famous luchador Zarkos, who explains that demons once ruled the island.

The gang visits the island’s abandoned ghost castle, where Daphne finds a pyramid-shaped artifact called the Daemon Ritus and Velma and Fred find a strange room with videos designed to address non-humans. When the gang returns to the hotel, they are attacked by the island demons, who kidnap numerous tourists including Fred, Velma and Mondavarious. The next day, Daphne is captured by Zarkos, while Shaggy and Scooby discover Fred, Velma and the tourists are now possessed by the demons. The two flee with Mary Jane, until Scooby realizes she is possessed as well. In the midst of an argument between Scooby and Shaggy, Scooby falls down a hole, followed by Shaggy, who dives in to save him. Shaggy comes across a vat containing the protoplasmic souls of everyone who was captured, including the rest of the gang, and releases the gangs’ souls to their bodies. Velma discovers that the demons are destroyed in sunlight just like vampires, while Daphne and Fred’s souls end up in the wrong bodies.

Shaggy steals the Daemon Ritus and reunites with the gang after their souls correct themselves. Coming across Voodoo Maestro, the gang learns that if the leader of the demons absorbs a pure soul through the Daemon Ritus, then the demons shall rule the world for the next 10,000 years. The pure soul belongs to Scooby, while the demons’ leader is Mondavarious. Shaggy convinces the gang to put their differences aside and finally work together to save Scooby. They form a plan but it fails and Scooby’s soul is extracted. Scooby is saved by Shaggy, wounding Mondavarious in the attempt. Fred and Velma discover he is actually a robot, controlled by none other than Scooby’s nephew, Scrappy-Doo (voiced by Scott Innes), who the gang abandoned years ago due to his egotism. Now vengeful, Scrappy transforms into a giant demon called Scrappy Rex (voiced by J. P. Manoux) to destroy the gang and rule the world using the tourists’ souls he absorbed.

Daphne fights Zarkos above the island’s caves, knocking him through the roof, which exposes the demons to sunlight and kills them. Shaggy confronts Scrappy and rips the Daemon Ritus from his chest, freeing the souls and reverting Scrappy to his original self. Shaggy finds the real Mondavarious trapped in a hole and frees him. Scrappy and his minions are arrested. Daphne and Fred kiss, Shaggy and Mary-Jane hug along with Scooby, and Velma hugs a man she met earlier then punched him while laughing. When Mystery Incorporated addresses the press, Velma thinks that Fred will take credit for her ideas again, however Fred lets Velma take the credit she deserves after feeling bad for her. Mystery Incorporated is then re-united after Scrappy-Doo and Zarkos are arrested.

At the end, Scooby and Shaggy are eating food at the Spooky Island hotel. They both eat hot peppers and scream as smoke comes out of the hotel

REVIEW:

Chances are you grew up watching some version of Scooby-Doo, unless you’re from the generations before he was created. As such, there is a great love for this giant, talking great dane, even from someone like me who despises dogs! So, it is any wonder that there was a live-action Scooby-Doo film? The question is, though, does this do Scooby justice?

What is this about?

In this live-action feature, Scooby, Shaggy, Daphne, Fred and Velma journey to Spooky Island, where a magical force is awakened that could spell doom for the human race. But the Mystery Inc. gang remains skeptical that there are any ghosts at work.

What did I like?

Bring the cartoon to life. There have been a number of cartoons that have been brought to life on the big screen, but many critics have called them “too cartoony”. Am I the only one that sees the irony in that? This film manages to not be as cartoony, but still keep that fun tone of the cartoons. Let’s face it, you’re not going into this expecting some sort of epic dark flick. If you are, then you have some serious issues and need some help. The bright colors, food jokes, witty banter are all there from the beloved show. All that was missing was a cameo from the Harlem Globetrotters!

So that’s what happened! In this day and age, it is regrettably popular to make fun of and criticize the things we loved and grew up with. How else do you explain the popularity of Robot Chicken? I mean, seriously, Optimus Prime with prostate cancer?!? Anyway, when we’re not criticizing and having a laugh at the expense of nostalgia, we have the urge to wonder what happened after the proverbial cameras stopped rolling. In this case, we find out that Mystery, Inc. kept fighting crime for a little bit, but eventually they disbanded, going their separate ways and doing their own thing. Since the setting is a couple of years after that, then it is a nice touch to see what did happen, although I think that should have been more than 2 years.

Shaggy. For the most part, the cast brings these characters to life. I know that Freddie Prinze, Jr. is a huge fan of Scooby-Doo (and Sarah Michelle Gellar probably is…by marriage HA!), so his take on Fred is earnest. Linda Cardellini is dead on with Velma, but the shining star has to be Matthew Lillard as Shaggy. He not only has the tall, lanky look I’d expect from out favorite alleged stoner, he also has the voice. No, it isn’t quite Casey Kasem, but it’s a passable facsimile. Leave us not forget that Lillard also manages to bring the lovable side of Shaggy to the screen, his relationship with Scooby (and food), and gets a love interest in the uber cute Isla Fisher (who looks totally different as a blonde). Did I mention that this guy has done such a good job with the character that he is currently voicing him in the current cartoons!

What didn’t I like?

Sexualization of Velma. Velma’s sexual orientation has long been the topic of conversation, which may be the reason they decided to have her hook up with Shaggy in the new abomination of a cartoon they have now. However, in this film, they decide to capitalize on Linda Cardellini’s hotness, as well as the mind control part of the plot and took her out of her glasses and loose-fitting turtleneck (keeping the knee socks and making her dress a bit tighter) and replaced it with some low-cut V-neck shirt that show cleavage. That’s right, Velma shows cleavage. That just isn’t right! One more thing, in a deleted scene, Daphne comes looking for her and finds her in with no shirt on dancing on the table. If I recall, they kiss before the scene ends. Ugh…why? Why did they do this to Velma?!?

Fred’s tan. As I said earlier, Freddie Prinze, Jr. has been very vocal of his love for Scooby-Doo, and he does a good job with Fred. However, Prinze is Hispanic, and as such his skin is a bit…shall we say, tan? This should be no problem. Fred seems to be the kind who would go for a tan when he had the chance, so no biggie. However, with the blonde wig it doesn’t work. I guess I really shouldn’t complain, it’s not like they stuck the wig on him, and then gave him blue contacts a la Jessica Alba in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Prinze at least looks more natural, as much as one can. Should they have cast someone else? No, but the should have found a wig that matched better.

Scooby snacks, CG, and Scrappy-Doo. You know those cookies that come in a tin and seem to last forever because they don’t get stale? Well, that’s what Scooby Snacks are reduced to in this film. For something that is such a major part of the cartoon, they were nothing more than cookies here and not even used to help Shaggy and Scooby gain some confidence. WTF?!? The CG is dated, but I’m split on how I feel about it. On the one hand Scooby doesn’t look half bad. I prefer to see this than a real dog with a CG bottom lip moving as is the norm these days for some reason (see Marmaduke). On the other hand, there are the creatures who look cheap and recycled. Again, this CG is dated, but come on, guys! Finally, Scrappy-Doo makes an appearance. Now, if you’re familiar with Scrappy, then you know that fans are split as to whether they like him or not. I won’t spoil anything, but 50% of the audience will like what happens to him and the other 50% won’t. For me, I feel he should have been part of the gang or a family reunion, along with Scooby-Dum, but I guess 3 CG dogs, er 2 1/2, would have been too much to ask for, right?

When you get right down to it, Scooby-Doo is not a film that was made for any other reason than to entertain kids and give fanservice to the older generations that grew up on the cartoon. There is nothing serious about this film, though, the plot does seem a bit dark for this film, what with the taking of souls and whatnot. That being said, they keep things light and happy throughout, finding a way to at least attempt to appease everyone. Whether it works or not is a personal judgment call. For me, though, I think this is a good afternoon watch, so give it shot!

4 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 10/9

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags , , on October 9, 2014 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!!!

Keeping with the horror theme of this month, I have 3 trailer you may enjoy. Well, 2 that I picked and 1 that was recommended by YouTube.

First up, a little film that recently had a remake that was released earlier this year. Screw that! Nothing like the original! Have a look at the trailer for Carrie.

Next, something a little more family friendly. There is debate whether this is more of a Halloween or Christmas film. I think it works for both. What do you think of the trailer for The Nightmare Before Christmas?

Finally, horror isn’t exactly a genre that thrived in made-for-tv movies, especially on the “big 3″ networks, but every now and then there is something that deviates from the norm. I know many are scared of clowns, and this just made it worse. Check out the trailer for Stephen King’s It.

The Unholy Wife

Posted in Classics, Drama, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , on October 7, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film begins with Phyllis (Diana Dors) telling her story in flashbacks. It begins how she meets rich vintner Paul Hochen (Rod Steiger) from Napa Valley in a bar and marries him soon after.

Not long after the marriage, Phyllis begins having an affair with a local rodeo rider, San Sanford (Tom Tryon), seeing him every time her husband is away, which is frequently. One night, her elderly mother-in-law (Beulah Bondi) thinks a burglar is breaking into the house, so she calls the police. Phyllis sees this as an opportunity to kill her husband and blame the burglar for the crime. The plan backfires a day later when she instead kills her husband’s best friend. Not wanting to go to jail, she convinces her husband to confess to the killing and they concoct a story that would set him free after the trial.

Unfortunately for her husband, Phyllis lies at the trial and he is put away for murder. The “unholy” wife finally gets the punishment she deserves when her mother-in-law dies of poisoning and the blame goes to Phyllis, who is sent to prison—for a crime she had nothing to do with. Later, she faces her execution in the gas chamber. The film ends with Paul showing their son Michael (Gary Hunley) the vineyard that will someday be his.

REVIEW:

I bet the first question on your mind is where in the world did I get the inkling to watch an unknown flick such as The Unholy Wife, right? Well, the answer to that is simple. On Facebook, I am a member of a group called “Lost Pinups”. This weekend, someone posted a picture of Diana Dors and the poster for this film. Naturally, curiosity took hold and here we are. Have I found an underrated gem? Or is this just another film that puts an attractive blonde in the starring role, regardless of her talent (or lack thereof).

What is this about?

Wealthy vintner Paul Hochen meets blonde bombshell Phyllis in a bar…and marries her. In due course, Phyllis is bored by Paul, and finds an exciting new lover in rodeo rider San. To adjust matters, she forms a murderous scheme, which seems to be going wrong…or is it? Will irony intervene in time to thwart a seemingly perfect crime?

What did I like?

Similar, but different. Here in America, we had the blonde bombshells Marilyn Monroe and the goddess, Jayne Mansfield. Not to mention other visions of grace, elegance, beauty, and whether we want to admit it or not, lust, Sophia Loren, Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor, Mamie van Doren, Raquel Welch, etc. Across the pond, I guess they didn’t feed those girls the same stuff, but one of the bombshells to come from over there was Diana Dors. Diana is blonde, curvy, and can easily be mistaken for Jayne sometime, but moreso as Marilyn in pictures. However, on-screen, at least in this film, she is far from the bubble headed bimbo-type characters those two ladies seemed to portray for most of their careers. A nice change of pace. I’ll have to check out more of her films to know for sure, though.

Noir. This is labeled as a film noir. For me, while I prefer my noir to be in black and white and involve cops and some saxophone music playing in the background, I can totally get behind that categorization. The mystery element, as well as the criminal intent and hint at sexualization, all of which define the genre, are quite present. Having said that, this story could easily have been told in the 30s or 40s with gangsters, but that’s just my personal preference.

Hey, kid! With everything that is going on in this flick, it wouldn’t be hard to forget that the Dors’ character and her husband have a kid. Luckily, he isn’t forgotten. Every now and then, he is brought into the conversation or onto the screen, as if to remind the audience that he does exist and he ramifications of their actions will affect more than just them, but him as well. Nice to see a film do that, as so many forget to do so.

What didn’t I like?

Strings attached. It seems there was a lot of focus on the score, especially early on in the film. Everytime a character would monologue, the strings would swell. The musician side of me wants to praise the composer, but the film buff in me has to take issue as this was highly unnecessary, or at the very least too much and inconsistent. Those same strings don’t do much in the later half of the film. It was almost as if they got paid for half a film and left after lunch!

Love triangle. So, Dors’ character is unhappy in her marriage and seeks companionship in this rodeo jock she has met. Common sense tells us that this should lead to a love triangle, right? The problem is that it never happens as the murder plot takes center stage, as well it should. However, I felt as if the two could/should have been mutually exclusive. As it is, the triangle almost doesn’t exist to anyone except Dors and the old lady who happens to hear them while she is in her stroke induced state of invalidity.

Accident? Speaking of the old woman, the whole reason Dors is in prison isn’t because she killed her husband. She’s there because she inadvertently poisoned the old bitty. I’m not sure if this funny, a cruel twist of fate, or something else, but it is interesting that the filmmakers chose that coupled with prior history as the reason she gets jailtime, and what appears to be the death sentence, if one can infer from the final scene. Seems a bit much for just an accidental killing…or was it?

As someone who has never seen a Diana Dors film, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised with what she is able to do on-screen. No, she isn’t the greatest actress in the world, but I think she has more of a hold on the acting thing than the bombshells we had over here. The Unholy Wife, as I’ve read on various sites, was a departure for Dors. She was more the comedic actress. The rest of the cast is a bit outshined by her. Partially because I was focused on her and partially because they weren’t really given anything to do. Rod Steiger’s character was such a dullard that I was literally falling asleep every time he came on the screen. All that said, do I recommend this flick? Well, I don’t believe this is for everyone. I can see cinefiles, fans of Dors, and those that enjoy classic films enjoying it, but everyone else…not so much.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Class Act

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 4, 2014 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Genius high school student Duncan Pinderhughes (Christopher “Kid” Reid) is getting ready for graduation, but is somewhat disheartened to find out that, despite his perfect SAT score and 4.0 GPA, prestigious Hafford University (parody of Harvard University) will not admit him unless he can pass phys. ed. Ex-convict Michael “Blade” Brown (Christopher “Play” Martin) is released from jail, and told by his parole officer (Rick Ducommun) that the condition of his release is satisfactory graduation from high school. A mishap results in their pictures being swapped on their permanent school records. In effect, Blade is surprised to find out that he is being placed in gifted classes, while Duncan is shocked to be placed in minimal classes with substandard conditions and miscreants for classmates.

Blade realizes this and sees Duncan as his ticket permanently out of jail, since Duncan could pass his classes with ease. He transforms Duncan into a version of himself with dreadlocks, and does his best to teach Duncan how to act and talk like a gangsta. Having no grasp of hip hop culture, Duncan’s parents begin to worry about their son’s new “friend”; his father especially, beginning to suspect Duncan is gay.

Blade manages to smooth-talk his way through his advanced classes, even successfully executing a dissertation on sexual intercourse (one of his favorite subjects). Duncan ends up running into a high school thug named Wedge (Lamont Johnson), and gets in trouble, but also ends up discovering an uncanny ability to kick field goals, and joins the school’s football team. Both Blade and Duncan end up with girlfriends that the other would have, with Blade smooth-talking the intelligent but excitement-seeking Ellen (Karyn Parsons) and Duncan being pursued by the wild Damita (Alysia Rogers).

A drug dealer named Mink (Thomas Mikal Ford) was told by his employee Wedge that Blade Brown was stepping into his territory and a chase involving the guys and their girlfriends and one of Duncan’s new buddies ensues. The gang briefly lose Wedge and Mink and go to Damita’s work (a wax museum), but are discovered by Mink and Wedge. Once there, the girlfriends realize that their men are swapped, and both guys eventually end up dumped. Still, Duncan manages to knock out Wedge in the museum, while Blade handles Mink, but they all end up in jail.

After the mix-up is corrected, Blade, Duncan and company are all set free. In an anti-climax, Duncan and Blade both enter a Knowledge bowl in an effort to get Blade back with Ellen. They succeed when Blade answers a tiebreaker question to win the competition, recalling a choice tidbit Ellen once told him. Afterward, both couples end up together. In a final scene, Duncan’s dad finds out the hard way that Duncan is definitely not gay by catching him and Damita having sex in Duncan’s bedroom. However, after returning to his room with his wife, he expresses relief and noted that his son’s girlfriend is “stacked”.

Walking in each other’s shoes dramatically changed the lives of both Duncan and Blade. In the epilogue, the audience learns that Blade graduated from high school and attended Hafford (even wearing preppy attire), while Duncan attended Stanford on a football scholarship.

REVIEW:

One of the rap groups that I think is severely overlooked, while less “talented” acts of today, if that what you want to call running around on stage with your pants below your butt spouting nonsense about killing and raping, get nothing but praise is Kid ‘N Play. These guys not only were a fun act to watch, they made music that could be played on the radio. Also, they made a nice little film career for themselves. Aside from those House Party films, we have this entry on their resume, Class Act.

What is this about?

Duncan is a genius straight A student, Blade is juvenile delinquent. But because of a mix up with their school records, everyone thinks each is the other one. Now, Duncan kind of likes the attention from being thought of as a real bad dude, if only the school bully would stop trying to rough him up. And Blade definitely likes being thought of as important instead of as trouble, if only the teacher would stop hitting on him for a date.

What did I like?

No race card. I hesitate to talk about this, but it is something worth mentioning. This is obviously a film with a predominantly African-American cast, and yet there are no mentions of race at all. Surprising, because this is something that almost always happens, unless you’re on The Cosby Show. All the elements are there to make this a “race” movie, prison, smart kid in an inner city school, parole officer, white teachers/administrators, etc., but nothing. Good on them for not falling into that trap and just making a movie, regardless of the color of everyone’s skin.

The switch. Kid ‘N Play, at least in their movies, tend to have opposite personalities which sets up perfectly for an identity switch film. For the most part, this works, as we get the comedic situations of them walking in each other’s shoes. The juvenile delinquent switching with the prim and proper genius? Come on, how could that not work? Throw in the ladies they meet (who are gorgeous, and fit more in with their opposites’ personality) and I say that this turns out to be a worthy switch.

Wax on. In all the action films I’ve seen in my day, I don’t believe any have ever gone into a wax museum. Now, this isn’t an action film, but they are chased in there. It is something different to be in a house of wax, rather than some abandoned warehouse down by the river, a casino, or an abandoned construction site, for example. Kudos to the filmmakers for having an original vision, or at least picking a location that is barely used, if at all, in cinema.

What didn’t I like?

Oblivious parents. How is it that this mixup in the office went unnoticed for so long? Obviously, the school was incompetent, but what about the parents? Did they not realize that their kids were in classes they weren’t supposed to be in, especially Kid’s parents. I know that had this happened to me when I was in school, my mom and dad would have been up at that school before dawn the next day to make sure the error was corrected and to give the school officials a piece of their mind…and then some.

Must there be drugs? Drugs make an appearance in the plot. Well, not really drugs so much as a drug dealer. My question is, why? Not only are the drugs not mention for the entire film, until we get to the 3rd act, but it just seems as if they needed some kind of antagonist who was over the token “bully”. I think back to House Party and remember those 3 guys. They were just bullies. No drugs, guns, or anything, and they worked just fine. Something similar would have worked here, or perhaps some rival from Play’s time in jail, but a drug dealer? Come on now, be more original! I must say, though, that the drug dealer did mange to connect this film and Encino Man through a random cameo by Pauly Shore (if he’s not playing the same character, it is one with the exact same clothes, hair, and style of talking.)

Hair. One of the defining characteristics of Kid ‘N Play was kids hi-top fade. When I last saw him, it was on some random sitcom that he made a guest appearance on, he was sporting a regular hair style. Not a surprise really, since he is more of an actor than a rapper these days and hi top fades aren’t the style anymore. However, I seem to recall one time where he had braids, and I wonder if this film was the start of that. At any rate, Kid is identified by his hair, so I Play to a much lesser extent. Both of them went and changed their styles for this film. At least they worked the change into the plot, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it!

Class Act apparently has a rather huge fanbase. I was reading somewhere that this was not meant to be released on DVD, but there was such a huge outcry for it that the studios decided to go ahead and release it. Power to the people, eh? As high school comedies go, this is ok, but given the fact that Kid ‘N Play, as well as the rest of the cast, are way past high school (you can see the 5 o’clock shadow on Kid in some scenes), this might have worked better in college or in the “real world”. Still, I found this to be enjoyable. Do I recommend it? Yes, it is a decent little movie. The music, clothes, and slang will take you back to the 90s and the film itself will have you wondering why these guys stopped making movies when it is obvious they had an actual talent for it. Give it a shot, why don’t you?

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

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