Trailer Thursday 3/5

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on March 5, 2015 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!

When I look at all the classic films that I love, many of them star Gene Kelly. I’ve even been accused of having a “man crush” on him. Ha!

Since it is raining today, I thought I’d share the trailer for one of the best film musicals ever made. Please enjoy the trailer for Singin’ in the Rain

 

The Fly

Posted in Classics, Horror, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , on March 4, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In Montreal, Quebec, scientist Andre Delambre is found dead with his head and arm crushed in a hydraulic press. Although his wife Helene confesses to the crime, she refuses to provide a motive and exhibits a number of strange behaviors. In particular, she is obsessed with flies, including a supposedly white-headed fly. Andre’s brother, Francois, lies and says he caught the white-headed fly and, thinking he knows the truth, Helene explains the circumstances surrounding Andre’s death.

In flashback, Andre, Helene, and their son Philippe are a happy family. Andre has been working on a matter transporter device called the disintegrator-integrator. He initially tests it only on small inanimate objects, but eventually proceeds to living creatures, including the family’s pet cat (which fails to reintegrate, but can be heard meowing somewhere) and a guinea pig. After he is satisfied that these tests are succeeding, he builds a man-sized pair of chambers. One day, Helene, worried since Andre has not come up from the basement lab for a couple of days, goes down to find Andre with a black cloth over his head and a strange deformity on his left hand. Communicating with typed notes only, Andre tells Helene that he tried to transport himself, but a fly got caught in the chamber with him, which resulted in the mixing of their atoms. Now he has the head and left arm of a fly, and the fly has his miniature head and left arm, though he keeps his mind.

Andre needs Helene to capture the fly so he can reverse the process. Although she expends great effort in her search, she cannot find it and Andre’s will begins to fade as the fly’s instincts take over his brain. Time is running out, and while Andre can still think like a human, he smashes the equipment, burns his notes, and leads Helene to the factory. When they arrive, he sets the hydraulic press and motions for Helene to push the button. She activates the press twice – once to crush his head and once to crush his left arm.

The police, hearing this confession, deem Helene insane and guilty of murder. As they are about to haul her away, Andre’s son Philippe tells Francois he’s seen the fly trapped in a web in the back garden. Francois convinces the inspector to come and see for himself. The two men see the fly, trapped in the web, with both Andre’s head and arm, looking terrified. It screams “Help me! Help me!” as a large brown spider advances on the creature. Just as the fly is about to be devoured by the spider, the inspector smashes them both with a rock. Thinking nobody would believe the truth, he and Francois decide to lie about the facts of the case so that Helene isn’t convicted of murder. In the end, Helene, Francois and Philippe resume their daily lives, with Francois explaining to Philippe that Andre died doing the most dangerous act to humanity, but also the most beneficial: “the search for the truth”.

REVIEW:

Have you ever picked a film to watch, thinking that it is the same thing you saw in your childhood, only to find out when you hit play that it isn’t? Well, that is what I just went through with The Fly. When I was little, and my family would take the motor home camping, my dad rented some old movies to watch on the brand new portable VCR (mid-80s, man!) One of these was Return of the Fly. Someday, I’ll watch this again, but for now let’s focus on what I just watched.

What is this about?

Scientist André Delambre (David Hedison) has invented a matter transporter. To perfect his machine, he decides to test the device on a human subject — himself. He steps into the chamber unaware that an ordinary housefly has accompanied him. His head and arm become horrifically switched with those of the fly. Now Delambre and his wife (Patricia Owens) are faced with a gruesome dilemma in this classic sci-fi horror co-starring Vincent Price.

What did I like?

Happiness. In case you didn’t know, this is a tragic story that doesn’t have a happy ending. No spoilers, though. Having said that, you can’t have tragedy without developing happiness. The happy couple of Andre and Helene is shown through their interactions, a date night, and even his excitement at showing her his new invention. You really get a feel at how happy these people are, that it really is a shame to know what is going to happen not long into the picture.

Suspense. In order to really make something special, it needs to be built up. Tease the audience, if you will. Once Andrea has had his accident, we don’t seem his face because it is covered with a towel, he doesn’t speak, other than notes through a typewriter, and his right hand is kept in his pocket. A couple of times we see what has happened to his hand, but the big reveal doesn’t come until later, when Helene takes the towel off his head and lets out a blood curdling scream. Why is this effective? Because the suspense was built up and there was no need for instant gratification. Something that today’s horror films lack.

Descent into madness. I was thinking, just about the time that they brought this up, how is it that Andre kept his intellect with a fly head, and yet can’t speak? As it turns out, it diminished over time to the point that it was gone and he had gone mad. This little bit of explanation makes a huge difference and shows that the filmmakers know that the audience would want an answer.

What didn’t I like?

Pacing. For being a 93 minute movie, it sure does take its time getting to the good stuff. The film opens after a certain crime has happened. From there, one would think we would get a flashback describing what happened, but no! We are forced to sit through a good 20-40 minutes of needless exposition before Helene finally decides to tell her story to the inspector. Personally, I would have liked to have seen more build up of the fly, perhaps more rampage, anything other than sitting through an hour of talking about stuff that really bears no importance or relevance to the plot, save for some murder conspiracies.

Flashback. I have no issue with the flashback, really, just how it was used. As I just said, it seemed like forever and a day before we finally got to the flashback scene and I was almost dozing at the point. This needed to be earlier in the film. What is my exact issue with the flashback, then? It seemed to be done as way for the writers to get out of the corner they had written themselves into, rather than something that was meant to move the story along.

Here, Kitty. Why did he have to experiment on a poor, cute, defenseless kitty? Couldn’t this have been some evil hell-hound whose atoms were scattered into the vastness of neverwhere? This is just more bias against cats!

While not the film I expected to watch this afternoon, The Fly did leave me with the feeling of watching a real classic. I don’t have much to say about this film (and the power seems like it is about to go out any second) other than it is worth a viewing if you get the chance, so check it out!

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

A Haunted House 2

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Spoofs & Satire with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 1, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Malcolm Johnson and his cousin Ray-Ray are driving Malcolm’s possessed girlfriend Kisha to the hospital after he beat her senseless for trying to attack him. Kisha starts making a fuss and fights Malcolm, then breathes into Ray’s face. He passes out at the wheel and collides with a truck. Somehow, everybody is okay, but Malcolm and Ray leave an unconscious Kisha in the backseat and run away. A year later, Malcolm has married Megan, an insecure woman with two kids, her bratty and promiscuous teenage daughter Becky and effeminate son Wyatt, who has a stereotypically black imaginary friend named Tony. The family moves into a new home with their dog, Shiloh Jr. Within minutes, a safe falls on the dog and crushes him. Malcolm hysterically cries all the way to when they bury the dog.

Megan then puts a creepy looking doll named Abigail on a chair by their bed. Malcolm messes around with it until he starts having sex with it. Malcolm carries his camera around to record everything he sees. He meets the neighbor, Miguel, who jumps at every chance he gets to call Malcolm racist whenever he comments on something related to a Mexican stereotype, though all of it is in jest. Weird things start happening again. Malcolm records himself having sex with Megan and notices the Abigail doll turning its head. He also finds old videotapes with a demonic being in it trying to kill a family of three by hanging them from a tree.

He fails when the rope breaks and he never actually gets to hang them. Additionally, Becky finds an old box and develops an attachment to it, and Wyatt continues to hang out with his imaginary friend. Malcolm seeks help from a paranormal psychologist named Professor Wilde. He deduces that Malcolm must have had a previous encounter with a demonic force. Malcolm thinks it has to do with Kisha. Wilde then proceeds to cook meth with some prostitutes. Malcolm finds himself being terrorized and taunted by Abigail, as he is getting sent crude photos from her to his phone. She also ends up burning his clothes. Later, Malcolm sees a box moving in the dark and begins to attack it in every possible way. Megan and the kids run downstairs and tell Malcolm that what was in the box was supposed to be a surprise for him to make up for Shiloh Jr. And so Malcolm pulls out a horribly mangled dog. He blows its head off to put it out of its misery.

Among other weird scenarios that plague the family is Becky opening her box and having a whole swarm of moths fly out. Malcolm fixes this by installing lights to attract bugs to their doom. He also notices the demon, which Professor Wilde says is named Aghoul, taunting him in the videos. Although he tries to explain the weirdness to Megan and the kids, they don’t believe him. To make matters worse, Malcolm comes home the next day to discover Kisha talking to Megan, looking very much not possessed. She has told Megan that Malcolm left her in a ditch to die, and she leaves after flashing him some scary black demon eyes. Later, Malcolm sees Abigail wrote “Miss me?” in red crayon all over the walls. He tries getting rid of her by burying her, but she comes back. He chops her up and barbecues her, but she still comes back.

Malcolm resorts to seeking help from the insane Father Doug Williams. He finds the crazy priest in a church, shanking another priest for absurd reasons. When Malcolm asks for his help, Doug only makes weird comments about the Kardashians coming after him and other men. Malcolm leaves when he thinks he sees demons surrounding a church, but they’re really just church women who make comments about Malcolm being with a white woman. Miguel comes over and offers a chicken to be used as a blood sacrifice. Malcolm ends up wrestling the chicken all across the kitchen, ending with him throwing the chicken up into the ceiling fan where it is decapitated. He and Miguel fry the remains and eat it with waffles.

As a last resort, Malcolm goes to find Ned and Noreen Swanson, a sort of racist and sexually frustrated paranormal investigative husband and wife duo. He brings them to his house, where they determine that the demonic presence has attracted the family to it, explaining Becky’s need for the box, Wyatt’s imaginary friend, and Malcolm’s sexual attraction to Abigail. They take hits from a bong mask and go downstairs to find Becky fully possessed. She flails around and gets thrown everywhere. Malcolm calls upon Doug to come by, but he has a mental breakdown and ends up shooting himself in the head. Becky runs upstairs and Malcolm chases after her. After some reluctance, he gets the demon to transfer itself to himself by having Becky regurgitate red goo. Everybody runs upstairs to find Malcolm possessed. He too pukes up the goo back into Becky’s box. The Swansons take the possessed items, including Abigail so Ned can have sex with her. Everything seems okay until the night when Malcolm and Megan are watching TV and Kisha shows up behind them. She twists Megan’s neck around, sending Malcolm running away.

Ray and his boys come to Malcolm’s house to find Megan dead, along with Becky upstairs, impaled in her bed, and Wyatt is missing. They find Malcolm lying on the floor in the basement, still alive. After a bit of panicked rambling, Kisha comes downstairs, leaving all the guys to scream in fear.

REVIEW:

Marlon Wayans returns with his spoof on horror film with A Haunted House 2. Is this a sequel that anyone was clamoring for? I don’t think so. I remember the first film had a couple of moments, but wasn’t that great and I fear this one may be even worse.

What is this about?

Marlon Wayans returns in this spoofy sequel as the grieving Malcolm, who’s trying to move on after his girlfriend’s untimely tragic death.

What did I like?

Laughs are present. For a comedy, there really isn’t much to be said about the funny moment in this film. This caused me to tread with caution, as I know that Marlon Wayans is nowhere near as funny as he thinks he is, especially without rest of the Wayans clan. I was shocked to find myself chuckling in a couple of places. Nothing worth mentioning, mind you, and neither of these instances were anything to do with Wayans, which should tell you something. At least one can get a laugh out of here, though.

Gabriel. Ever since I saw his first special on Comedy Central, Gabriel Iglesias has been my favorite modern stand-up comedian. I hear my friends and colleague go on and on about Jim Gaffigan, Louis C.K., etc., but those guys just some off as bitter to me. Gabriel seems to enjoy everything he does. I was a bit hard on him for his role in Planes, and I should say that can do better than this, but the guy is getting movie roles, and that is something to be proud of. In the next few years, he’ll be a big star hopefully. In the meantime, this isn’t a big role for the Fluffy one, but it does let him do some of his kind of humor and show some chemistry with Marlon Wayans. In the right project, I’d love to see these two together again sometime.

You give me Joy. Let’s be honest, there really isn’t much to like about this film, but if you’re a fan, then you in for a nice helping of her. For me, I’m not a fan, but ever since D.O.A.: Dead or Alive, I have been a fan of her body. As we see in the bedroom scene, all these years later and she looks as good as ever.

What didn’t I like?

Racial jokes. Not to sound like a complete prude, but can we stop with the racial jokes? A couple of stereotype jokes are fine, but to fall back on racial humor every chance possible just seems low brow. For me, the overabundance of racial jokes, particularly the interracial relationship jabs were just too much, but they kept on coming with them, for some reason.

Doll sex. Marlon Wayans has done some creepy, unorthodox things on screen before, but this has to take the cake. Abigail, the doll who is an obvious ripoff of Annabelle gets a full dose of Wayans, as he basically rapes here. Yes, I said raped a doll. As the film progresses, the doll becomes, shall we say, unstable? Keying Wayans’ car, leaving notes and messages, etc. I half expected her to come to life, like some real life stalker. I was just queasy and uneasy about the whole thing.

Wasted talent. One of the movie review podcasts that I frequently listen to takes issues with Marlon Wayans making these type of foolish films. Why do they say that? Well, Wayans has proven he is a capable actor in films like Requiem for a Dream, and yet he just keeps making films of this nature. There isn’t a moment where he isn’t mugging for the camera, saying something stupid or offensive, or doing something that makes you question his sanity.

A Haunted House 2 does something that I didn’t think would be possible, and that is make A Haunted House watchable. There are a million and one reasons to avoid this film like the plague, so let me just pull one out of the air. It makes an attempt to be an entrant of that horrible found footage genre, and fails. Look, no more need to waste time reading this, just as there is no more need for me to keep writing. This is a bad film that should never have been made! Keep away! Trust me, you’ll thank me for it!

1 1/2 out of 5 stars

Saturday Night Fever

Posted in Classics, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Anthony “Tony” Manero (John Travolta) is a 19-year-old Italian American man from the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn in New York City. Tony lives with his parents (Val Bisoglio and Julie Bovasso), and works at a dead-end job in a small hardware store. The stagnant monotony of his life is temporarily dispelled every Saturday night when Tony is “king of the dance floor” at 2001 Odyssey, a local disco club. Tony has four close friends: Joey (Joseph Cali); Double J (Paul Pape); Gus (Bruce Ornstein); and the diminutive Bobby C. (Barry Miller). A fringe member of this group of friends is Annette (Donna Pescow), a neighborhood girl who longs for a more permanent and physical relationship with Tony.

One plot device in the film’s narrative is the Verrazano–Narrows Bridge on which the friends ritually stop to clown around. The bridge has special significance for Tony as a symbol of escape to a better life on the other side—in more suburban Staten Island.

Tony agrees to be Annette’s partner in an upcoming dance contest at 2001 Odyssey, but her happiness is short-lived when Tony is mesmerized by another woman at the club, Stephanie Mangano (Karen Lynn Gorney), who executes intricate dance moves with exceptional grace and finesse. Although Stephanie coldly rejects Tony’s advances, she eventually agrees to be his partner in the dance competition, provided that their partnership will remain strictly professional. Tony’s older brother, Frank Jr. (Martin Shakar), who was the pride of the Manero family since he was ordained a Roman Catholic priest, brings despair to their parents when he tells them that he has left the priesthood. Tony shares a warm relationship with Frank Jr., but feels vindicated that he is no longer the black sheep of the family.

While on his way home from the grocery store, Gus is attacked by a Hispanic gang and is hospitalized. He tells Tony and his friends that his attackers were the Barracudas. Meanwhile, Bobby C. has been trying to get out of his relationship with his devoutly Catholic girlfriend, Pauline, who is pregnant with his child. Facing pressure from his family and others to marry her, Bobby asks former priest Frank Jr., if the Pope would grant him dispensation for an abortion. When Frank tells him this would be highly unlikely, Bobby’s feelings of despair intensify. Bobby lets Tony borrow his 1964 Chevrolet Impala to help move Stephanie from Bay Ridge to Manhattan, and futilely tries to extract a promise from Tony to call him later that night.

Eventually, the group gets their revenge on the Barracudas, and crash Bobby C’s car into their hangout. Tony, Double J, and Joey get out of the car to fight, but Bobby C. takes off when a gang member tries to attack him in the car. When the guys visit Gus in the hospital, they are angry when he tells them that he may have targeted the wrong gang. Later, Tony and Stephanie dance at the competition and end up winning first prize. However, Tony believes that a Puerto Rican couple performed better, and that the judges’ decision was racially biased. He gives the Puerto Rican couple the first prize trophy, and leaves with Stephanie in tow. Once outside in a car, she denigrates their relationship and he tries to rape her. She viciously resists and runs from him.

Tony’s friends come to the car along with a drunk and stoned Annette. Joey says she has agreed to have sex with everyone. Tony tries to lead her away, but is subdued by Double J and Joey, and sullenly leaves with the group in the car. Double J and Joey begin raping Annette while she is still too incapacitated to resist and continue even as she sobers up. Bobby C. pulls the car over on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge for their usual cable-climbing antics. Typically abstaining, Bobby gets out and performs more dangerous stunts than the rest. Realizing that he is acting recklessly, Tony tries to get him to come down. Bobby’s strong sense of alienation, his deadlocked situation with Pauline, and Tony’s broken promise to call him earlier that day—all culminate in a suicidal tirade about Tony’s lack of caring before Bobby slips and falls to his death into the river below them.

Disgusted and disillusioned by his friends, his family, and his life, Tony spends the rest of the night riding the subway into Manhattan. Morning has dawned by the time he appears at Stephanie’s apartment. He apologizes for his bad behavior, telling her that he plans to relocate from Brooklyn to Manhattan to try and start a new life. Tony and Stephanie salvage their relationship and agree to be friends, sharing a tender moment as the credits roll.

REVIEW:

Well, it is Saturday and I am running a bit of a fever. What better movie title fits my current situation than Saturday Night Fever, right? I think people fall into one of three camps on this film. They either love it, hate it, or have seen parts of it, but mostly tune in just for the music. Let’s find out which camp I fall into, shall we?

What is this about?

By day, 19-year-old Tony Manero is a paint store clerk, but at night he’s a polyester-clad stallion who rules a Brooklyn disco in this iconic film.

What did I like?

Rise of Travolta. Today, we all know John Travolta as a movie star, but at the time this was released, he was still a TV star trying to break into the movies. On top of that, he was on a sitcom, Welcome Back, Kotter. So, the jump to drama was pretty big. I have to say that Travolta makes the leap with no trouble. No wonder he has been able to stick around so long. He can pull off all genres, but dramas, especially the ones where he gets to dance, seem to be where he shines.

Dirty Dancing. Speaking of dancing, I would be remise if I didn’t bring up the dancing in this film. These scenes are probably the second or third biggest draw, behind Travolta and the music. Much like the film, Dirty Dacing, these dance scenes look easier than they are, but are no less impressive to see. Coupled with the fact that these are choreographed with groups of people, couples, etc. Man alive, it is just a site to see, let me tell ya!

Music. If you know anything about this film, I would wager it is the soundtrack, which was done by the Bee Gees. Perhaps the best known track is “Stayin’ Alive”, which is the first thing you hear as we see Travolta strutting down the street in the open. For the rest of the film, we are treated to the great disco sounds of the Bee Gees, which fits perfectly with this film. I feel like I should say something about there not being an actual score, but the Bee Gees (and other disco stars) more than make up for it.

What didn’t I like?

Clones. Travolta hangs out with his friends in some sort of ersatz gang. I can’t help but notice how they all look like clones of him. There is even one that is shorter than the rest, who I would imagine is the one that got damaged in the process. HAHA! Seriously, though, if they were going to use guys that resemble Travolta, why not just make them all brothers?

Family. On the topic of family, am I the only one tired of seeing the loud Italian family everytime a film is set in New York or New Jersey? It just seems to me that this was used as a cop out, rather than an actual plot device, especially since they seemed to disappear half way through the film. Also, the priest brother seemed like he was going to be a subplot/important character but turned out to be nothing more than a cameo. Basically, I’m saying if family was supposed to be such a big factor, then it needed to be more than just a couple of dinners, squabbling, etc.

Treat her like a lady. Haven’t we all had a crush on someone who didn’t have the same feelings for us? Trying to be friends with them is fine, but boy can it be uncomfortable, especially when you see them with someone else! Does that mean the person should treat the crushee like crap? No! Yet, that is how Travolta treats this sweet girl who wants nothing more than to love him. She has her own issues, obviously, but apparently, she was pushed so far that she resorted to drugs and sleeping with all of the “gang”. Had he treated her with a modicum of respect, rather than dumping her as a dance partner and then not giving her a chance as a girlfriend, maybe this could have all been avoided.

Saturday Night Fever is one of those films that is known more for its iconography than the actual plot. Is that so bad? Yes and no. Yes, because this isn’t too shabby of a film and no, because it made the career of Travolta and helped the careers of the Bee Gees. I will say that this film suffers from what I like to call “70s pacing”. It can be painfully slow at time, but the music keeps the audience invested. Do I recommend this? Yes, if nothing else, you can at least have fun with the soundtrack. Some may even get up and dance! Check it out!

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 2/26

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on February 26, 2015 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!!!

As Black History Month comes to a close, so does the series of trailers from African-American films. I will probably do similar series of trailer in other prominent months, if I can come up with enough, but we’ll see.

In the meantime, it seems like I should end the month with a trailer for some powerful film like Selma, Do the Right Thing, 42,  Jungle Fever, Malcolm X, Boyz N the Hood, The Butler, The Color Purple, 12 Years a Slave, etc., but I want to go in a lighter, more fun direction.

Much has been said about the lack of a prominent African-American superhero on the big screen. Sure, there is Falcon (who is the new Captain America in the comics…maybe this will happen on the big screen soon?), War Machine (Iron Patriot, or whatever name they’re giving him now), and back in the day there was Spawn and Blade. Rumors are circulating that the new Spider-Man will not be white. If they’re going the direction I think they’re going, he’ll be half black, which is half of something I suppose. Halle Berry played Storm. That’s all there is to say about that, really.

In 2018, Black Panther, one of the biggest African-American superheroes out there will come to big screen. I’m not sure, be may make an appearance in this summer’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, but we’ll see.

Black Panther had a motion comic animated series that aired on BET a few years back. If you watch all the episodes together, it plays out like a movie. Watch and enjoy Marvel Knights: Black Panther

Almost Famous

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 25, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1973, William Miller is a 15-year-old boy aspiring to be a rock journalist. His mother, Elaine, wants him to become a lawyer. Shunned by his classmates, he writes for underground papers in San Diego, sharing the love of rock music instilled in him through a gift of albums left behind on the day his sister Anita left home.

William listens to an interview with rock journalist Lester Bangs. William has sent Bangs copies of his work, and Bangs gives William a $35 assignment to write up a review of a Black Sabbath concert. At first reluctant to assist a journalist, the band Stillwater brings William backstage after he praises their work. The guitarist, Russell Hammond, takes a liking to William, partly because of William’s friendship with a groupie he has romantic feelings for, Penny.

William goes with Penny to the “Riot House” – the Hyatt Hotel on Sunset Boulevard – to meet Stillwater. Penny, feigning retirement from her rock glory days, acts as William’s chauffeur, but only to get close to Russell, for whom she has genuine feelings and a past relationship.

William is called by Ben Fong-Torres, editor of Rolling Stone, who wants him to do a story, believing William is several years older than he really is. When William convinces Ben to let him do a story on Stillwater, he is instructed to go on the road with them.

On the first leg of the trip, William makes his first in an increasingly frustrating number of attempts to interview Russell. Penny watches the interaction and sympathizes with William. William experiences tensions with the band due to his role as a journalist.

A new manager, Dennis, comes on board to help steer the band, and it is revealed that Penny must leave the tour before New York, where Leslie, Russell’s ex-wife/girlfriend, will join them. During a poker game he allows Dick to put up the groupies as a stake. The band loses the groupies to the band Humble Pie for $50 and a case of Heineken. When William tells Penny, she acts nonchalant but is devastated. Penny and Doris, the band’s tour bus, are left behind; Dennis has piled the band into a plane for more gigs.

Penny goes to New York on her own, and as the band gathers in a restaurant with Russell’s girlfriend, Penny shows up. As they celebrate making the cover of Rolling Stone, Penny makes Leslie uncomfortable and Dick asks her to leave. William chases Penny back to her hotel and finds her overdosed on quaaludes.

Believing they will die during a plane ride, the group confesses their secrets. When Penny is insulted by Jeff, the band’s lead singer, William defends her and discloses his love. The plane lands safely, leaving everyone to ponder the changed atmosphere.

William continues on to San Francisco to finish the story, parting ways with the band in the airport. Upset about Penny, he rewrites the article, telling the truth. The Rolling Stone editors cannot wait to publish it, but have to ask the band to verify it. Fearful of how the article will affect their image, the band makes William look like a liar. William is crushed and the story is dead. Sitting dejected in the airport, he sees his sister, who has become a stewardess and lives on her own terms. She tells him they should go on a trip together and, exhausted, William chooses to go home to San Diego.

Backstage at the Miami Orange Bowl on the Stillwater tour, Sapphire talks to Russell about Penny’s near-suicide and how despite the warnings she received about letting people fall in love with her, one of them saved her life. Russell is curious about the person in question, but Sapphire chastises him, saying that everyone knows what the band did to William and how awful they think it is. Russell calls Penny and asks for her address, telling her he wants to meet. Unbeknown to Russell, she gives him William’s address in an attempt to resolve their conflict. Russell goes to the house, thinking it is Penny’s, but finds Elaine instead. Learning who he is, she lets him in to see William as Russell realizes where he is. They reconcile and Russell reveals that he called Rolling Stone and told them William’s story is true. Russell gives William a proper interview, Penny purchases a ticket to Morocco, and William’s story is published, with Stillwater on the cover of “Rolling Stone”.

REVIEW:

Music…truly the greatest of the arts. As a musician, I may be a bit biased, though. Almost Famous does something that I don’t think many films of its ilk do, it intersperses real life with fiction. Oh wait, that has been done. Whoops! Seriously, though, other than giving us a close-up of Kate Hudson’s beautiful face, is there any reason to sit through this? Let’s find out shall we?

What is this about?

In the early 1970s, William Miller writes about the band Stillwater on a cross-country tour, learning about friendship and love along the way.

What did I like?

Wonder years. Let’s see, set in the 70s, teenage kid coming of age…what does this remind you of? That’s right! The Wonder Years! In some ways, this film brought me back to that show, but without the narration and with a somewhat darker tone, of course, but that’s a good thing because I grew up loving that show. The fact that someone was either obviously inspired by it to make this film, ripped off the idea, or just happened to have a coincidental idea is brilliant, mainly because I don’t think would have worked at any other point in time. You could probably argue for the swing era, but that would be an entirely different film, filled with race issues, depressions, etc.

Golden child. Patrick Fugit is one of those actors who you know you’ve seen him in this or that and hoped he would get his big break, but nothing ever happened past one or two starring roles for whatever reason. This is one of his star vehicles. He also had a big role in Saved, but other than that I don’t know that he’s anything major. That’s neither here or there, though. Fugit kills it in this role as an underage teen who happens to have a job at a local paper in San Francisco and, because of his outstanding skills, gets noticed by Rolling Stone magazine and asked to do a piece on the (fictional) band Stillwater. I should mention that he’s one of those graduate high school at 15 kids and this happens during the end of his senior year. Fugit has the innocent, dough-eyed look that one has at that age and he brings the worldly knowledge that an experience reporter, as we are led to believe he is, has as well. No wonder everyone thought this guy was going places.

Music, man. A film about a music reporter following around a band and doing a piece on them wouldn’t be complete without at least some music, right? I’m a little disappointed there weren’t more clips of the band performing, but I’m happy with what we got. Also, copyright issues and all that legal mumbo jumbo probably prevented this from being about someone like, say, Black Sabbath, who Stillwater is opening for when we first come across them. Back at this point in time, it was all about the music, man, and this film accomplishes the goal of showing us just why that is by portraying the ups and downs of a band which, in turn, translates into great songs.

What didn’t I like?

Mom. First off, let me say that Frances McDormand does a great job as the mother in the film. However, it is no wonder that, as she says, “…my children don’t want to be around me.” She shelters, brainwashes, and coddles them to the point that Zooey Deschanel’s character runs off to become a stewardess and Fugit jumps at the chance to goon tour with a band and its groupies. Pardon me, “band-aids.” Maybe it is because I am not a parent, but to be this kind of mother just seems to be too much. I didn’t see the dad, or hear mention of him, though, so perhaps this is some kind of coping mechanism or other psychological issue that she is inflicting on her children, causing them to drift further and further away.

Zooey and Phillip. Both Zooey Deschanel and Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s roles could have been bigger, I felt. Hoffman’s role was pretty decent, but as the resident mentor/father figure in this story, I almost feel as if he should have stepped in when things went south at the end. As for Zooey, she runs away in the beginning of the film and, by chance, she shows up at the end. As far as the audience knows, she and her brother haven’t talked since her departure, and yet they still seem close. Maybe it is my love for Zooey, but I would have liked to have seen some more interaction with the two throughout this journey. I also wonder what it would have been like had she had Kate Hudson’s role and vice versa.

Youth of a nation. What was it with young people in the 70s? Were they just able to run around free and willy-nilly take random bus rides across the country? Don’t even get me started on the girls! Apparently, they just went around when the first guy came around, they opened their legs and let them in. Ok…I’m exaggerating a bit, but if this film is to be believed, that was the life young people led back then. Not really something I disliked about the film, just a statement.

Dare I say Almost Famous is one of the best made films I’ve seen? Yes, I do dare. Kate Hudson, with her California girl looks, is perfectly cast as the independent Penny Lane. I’ve mentioned Patrick Fugit, Zooey Deschanel, and Frances McDormand. The music keeps you going and interested in the whole picture, and there are some comedic moments to keep the mood light. Do I recommend this? Yes, this is definitely a film to see before you die!

5 out of 5 stars

Hondo

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Westerns with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 25, 2015 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

At a remote ranch in the desert of New Mexico Territory, homesteader Angie Lowe (Geraldine Page) and her six year-old son Johnny (Lee Aaker) come upon a stranger (John Wayne) on foot coming towards their ranch, carrying only his saddle bags and a rifle. The man tells them only his last name, Lane, and that he was riding dispatch for the US Army Cavalry. He had lost his horse in an encounter with some Indians a few days before, and offers US Army scrip or work for one of her horses. Angie tells Lane that her ranch hand had quit recently and hadn’t had a chance to break her two horses for riding, so Lane offers to break a horse himself. He also asks where her husband is, and she says he is rounding up calves and cattle in the mountains and should return soon.

Johnny watches with fascination as Lane saddles one of the horses and rides the bucking and untamed animal with ease. Lane also offers to do a few chores around the ranch, including sharpening an axe and chopping firewood. Lane deduces by the neglected work around the ranch that her husband has not been at the ranch for some time, a fact she confesses is true. When night falls and it starts to rain, Angie offers to let Lane sleep in her home on a floor bed in the corner. Angie sees that the butt of his rifle is inscribed “Hondo” Lane, whom she knows had killed three men the year before, but doesn’t know the circumstances. She attempts to shoot him, but due to the first chamber being empty for safety, Hondo is not hurt. He loads the chamber and tells her to keep it that way and keep it high, out of Johnny’s reach.

Hondo leaves Angie and Johnny at the ranch and returns to his Cavalry post, where he meets up with his friend Buffalo Baker (Ward Bond). He reports to his commanding officer that C troop, which was sent to gather and bring in settlers to the north, is not coming back. He found their company guidon on two Indians, whom he subsequently killed. It is now clear to the Major (Paul Fix) that all of the Apache nation is raiding and killing settlers. At the ranch, Angie and Johnny are beset by Apaches, led by Chief Vittorio (Michael Pate) and his main under-chief, Silva (Rodolfo Acosta). Angie is not made nervous by their presence as she has always let them use their water, and they had never attacked her family before. Soon, however, they are manhandling Angie, and Johnny emerges from the house with the loaded pistol and shoots at Silva, nicking Silva in the head and then, as Silva recovers and approaches him, he throws the pistol at Silva. Vittorio is impressed by Johnny’s bravery and makes him an Apache blood brother by cutting Johnny’s thumb with a knife and giving him an Apache name. Vittorio also wonders where Angie’s husband is and she tells him that he’ll return soon. Vittorio tells her that unless her husband does so, she must take an Apache husband because the boy needs a father to teach him to become a man.

A night or two later in a saloon, Hondo calls a friend from his poker game, but one of the poker players objects. He and Hondo get into a fight, and Hondo beats up the man badly, driving him out the door. Buffalo Baker tells Hondo the man called himself “Ed Lowe” (Leo Gordon), and Hondo suspects he might be Angie’s missing husband. Feeling guilty, he leaves the fort to return Angie’s horse to her. Seeking revenge for the bar beating, Lowe and an accomplice (Frank McGrath) follow Hondo through the desert as he makes his way to Angie’s ranch. Hondo camps near a river but leaves it when he detects two Indians stalking him nearby. Lowe enters the camp and he and his guide are attacked by the two Indians. The guide is killed, but Hondo shoots and kills an Apache about to kill Lowe. Lowe is briefly grateful but turns his gun on Hondo in retaliation for the bar beating. Hondo defends himself, killing Lowe. Hondo finds a tintype of Johnny alongside Lowe’s body, confirming that Lowe is Johnny’s father and Angie’s husband.

Continuing towards Lowe’s ranch, Hondo runs into an Apache party, who pursue Hondo through the desert. He kills several but they eventually capture him. They take Hondo to the top of a nearby mesa when Vittorio appears. They stake him out and begin to torture and prepare to kill him because he is wearing his old Army hat and they wish to find out the location and number of the Cavalry soldiers. An Indian shows Vittorio the picture of Johnny from Hondo’s saddlebag, and Vittorio thinks Hondo is Angie’s husband. He orders the Indians to untie him; and Silva declares the blood rite as Hondo had killed his brother. Knives are used in the fight of the blood rite. Silva wounds Hondo in the shoulder, but Hondo pins Silva to the ground. Hondo puts his knife to Silva’s throat, and gives him the option to take back the blood rite or die as did his brother. Silva gives in. Vittorio takes Hondo to Angie’s ranch, and when Vittorio asks if Hondo is her husband, she lies, saving Hondo. The Chief warns Hondo to raise Johnny in the Apache way and leaves them.

While Hondo recuperates from his wounds, he shows her the picture of Johnny that he tells her he took from Lowe’s body. She asks if he died well, and Hondo pauses before saying that he had. Over the next few weeks, Hondo and Angie grow closer. Hondo and Angie express their growing love for each other. Hondo attempts to reveal the truth of her husband’s death, but is interrupted by Vittorio’s sudden appearance. Vittorio tells them that the pony soldiers will soon return. He asks Hondo not to join them and to keep the Indian’s location a secret. Hondo promises to do the first but not the latter, and Vittorio shows respect for Hondo’s truthfulness. Angie tells him she loves him, and they cement their relationship with a kiss.

The Army arrives at the ranch, commanded by an ambitious, inexperienced young Lt. McKay (Tom Irish) and accompanied by scouts Baker and Lennie (James Arness). McKay is determined to protect the settlers in the area by relocating them to the Army post and defend the area against Apache attacks. Lennie reveals that he discovered Lowe’s body and matched the horse tracks to Hondo’s horse. He wants Hondo’s Winchester rifle in exchange for keeping quiet about how Hondo bushwhacked Lowe. Angie overhears Lennie’s demands.

Hondo prepares to leave, but before he goes, he tells her the truth about her husband’s death. Hondo is also intent on telling Johnny, but she persuades him not to, telling Hondo she didn’t love her husband any longer and had grown tired of his womanizing and gambling. She says it would be an unkind thing to tell the boy about the true nature of his father’s death and that the secret won’t follow them to Hondo’s ranch in California. Hondo responds to her emotional plea with an Indian word that seals a squaw-seeking ceremony, “Varlabania”, which he tells her means “forever”. The Army leaves to move further on into Apache territory and as promised Hondo refuses to go with them but confirms with Buffalo that he knows where Vittorio and his party are and that the young Lt. is leading them into a massacre. Buffalo knows but he also knows that scouts such as himself have been helping to train young West Point officers for many years.

The Army returns after being ambushed by the Apaches, suffering heavy casualties including wounds to Lt. McKay. Vittorio had been killed, causing the Apaches to retreat so they can regroup and select a new chief. Hondo, Angie and Johnny join the Cavalry and settlers and head to the fort. The group is attacked by the Apaches, now led by Silva, and the group circles their wagons. They escape the encirclement twice but the Apaches continue their pursuit. Hondo loses his mount and is attacked by Silva, but Hondo kills him, retrieving Lt. McKay’s uniform shirt from his body. The Indians retreat again to choose a replacement chief.

Lt. McKay says that General Crook will be arriving in the territory with a large force to pursue the Apache. Hondo sadly notes the end of the Apache “way of life,” denoting that it is too bad as it was a good way. The movie ends with the idea that once back to the fort, Hondo, Angie and Johnny would continue on to Hondo’s ranch in California as a family

REVIEW:

I was doing a little research just now on Hondo and it turns out that this was John Wayne’s return to the western genre after a three-year absence. It is safe to say that if you know anything about John Wayne, it is that he is synonymous with westerns, but the guy has made a few outside of the genre. I may check one of those out soon. At any rate, is Wayne’s return successful and is this a watchable film, or just another run of the mill western?

What is this about?

An antisocial half-breed who splits his time between the white man and the Apache develops an unlikely friendship with a New Mexico farm wife.

What did I like?

Cowboys and Indians. A good ol’ fashioned showdown between cowboys and Indians. Man, it has been some time since I’ve watched a western that pits these two against each other. Think the last one might have been The Searchers, since then I think all the westerns I’ve seen, except for maybe 2 or 3 have targeted the Mexicans. As you can imagine, going back to basics, as it were, it a real treat.

Hint at violence. One would think that with this kind of film, we’d get lots of blood splattered all over the place, but that would be an incorrect assumption. This is going to sound extremely hypocritical of me, especially after praising the violence in Kingsman: The Secret Service, but I actually liked that there was no real violence. Sure there is the gunfight at the end, this is a western, after all. Also, we are privy to murder, a dog being impaled, knife fights, etc. In today’s society, this would have all been shown, perhaps in its bloody brilliance, but as we can learn from these old films, sometimes it is what you don’t show that makes the most impact.

Medusa. Geraldine Page doesn’t have the looks you would expect a leading lady in a major motion picture to have. That sounded really mean, but it is true. However, as you watch her character, you can see that she most definitely has some serious acting chops. No wonder she was nominated for an Oscar in this role. She goes toe to toe with Wayne and delivers a powerful monologue about her feelings towards him and the conflict about her husband. It is the kind of stuff that is sure to blow you away.

What didn’t I like?

Apaches. There was something off about these Apaches. First, let me compliment the film for not spray tanning some actors to make them look like they were Native American, or if they did, at least getting better spray paint. It may have been the costumes they were outfitted in, but I didn’t feel like I needed to run in fear of these Indians. They might as well have been the Go-Go Gophers! I can’t tell you what it is about that made them not intimidating, but whatever it is wasn’t working for me.

Notorious gunfighter. Early on in the film, Geraldine Page’s character comes across Wayne’s gun and the plate on it. It turns out that he is a notorious gunman with quite a few kills under his belt, but that’s all we hear about it. For the rest of the film, not a peep, whisper, or anything is said further about this tidbit of information that was obviously of some importance. Seems to me like it should have been more of a plot point, but what do I know?

Duke. I really hate to say this, but it is becoming more and more apparent that Wayne’s movies follow a certain pattern, especially his characters. I don’t mind him being the tough guy hero, but may times he ends up falling for the widow woman and single-handedly defeats the enemy. If he was around today, we’d want him to put on a pair of tights and be a superhero. Hey, they haven’t announced Vigilante for anything yet. Can you imagine John Wayne as him? Seriously, though, did this guy have any range? I’m starting to question if he did.

All in all, Hondo was pretty enjoyable, albeit predictable. A friend of mine said this could best be described as “a Hot Pocket of westerns”. What she meant by that is it has everything you want and will satisfy you for a little bit, but in the long run, you’ll want something more substantial. Don’t get me wrong, this is a really good flick, just not as good as others in the genre. Do I recommend it? Yes and no. I think you should see it, just don’t go out of your way. Chances are AMC will play it more than a few times this year on their western Saturday block of movies.

4 out of 5 stars

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