Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , on May 1, 2016 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Pee-wee Herman, a resident of Fairville and a cook at Dan’s Diner, meets and befriends actor Joe Manganiello, who convinces Pee-wee to go on the first vacation of his life to reach New York to celebrate Joe’s birthday party. Upon leaving Fairville, Pee-wee unintentionally becomes involved with three women who have just robbed a bank: Pepper, Freckles, and Bella. After the women steal his vehicle, Pee-wee gets a car ride from Gordon, a traveling salesman who gives him a disguise kit.

Pee-wee spends the night at a farmhouse inhabited by Farmer Brown and his nine daughters, each of whom have a romantic interest in Pee-wee. The next day, Farmer Brown insists that Pee-wee get married to one of his daughters. During the wedding ceremony, Pee-wee uses the disguise kit to flee the church. Pee-wee meets Penny King, an aviator with a flying car who offers to fly him to New York. When the flying car crashes, Pee-wee winds up in the wilderness and then joins an Amish community, where he encounters the bank robbers.

That night when the women attempt to steal a horse buggy, Pee-wee convinces them to leave their money behind for the Amish citizens to purchase a replacement. Pee-wee and the women arrive in New York via horse buggy. Pee-wee falls down a well just before Joe’s birthday party. Joe rescues Pee-wee after hearing about his situation on a newscast.

REVIEW:

Growing up, I was a pretty big fan of Pee-Wee Herman. Every Saturday morning, I would get up and watch Pee-Wee’s Playhouse (something I recently did again, since it was on Netflix). Now it appears as though Pee-Wee is back. Will I have the same love for the character that I did as kid? Let’s find out!

What is this about?

A chance encounter with a mysterious stranger (Joe Manganiello) points Pee-wee toward his destiny — and his first-ever holiday!

What did I like?

Trapped in time. I love small towns. There is something so charming about the laid back, relaxed feel of these quaint places. In Fairville, the town where Pee-Wee is currently living, it also seems as if they are stuck in the 50s, complete with diner, greasers, etc. As it is presented to the audience, I have no problem with it and wish I could go visit!

Be yourself. Sometimes when a celebrity appears in a film, they play a similar character to who they are in real life. Other times, they use their real name, but use a personality/characterization that is totally opposite of who they actually are. Sometimes, though, they appear in a film as more than just a cameo, as Joe Manganiello does. I have no problem with his appearance here. I was skeptical when I heard he was in this, wondering how he would fit, but it makes sense now. As a True Blood fan, though, I couldn’t help but want a bit of Alcide to be show in his portrayal.

He works hard for the money. I’ve always wondered how Pee-Wee made a living. Much like SpongeBob Squarepants, he is of an undecipherable age (based on his character, not Paul Reubens), but seems to always have new toys, gadgets, etc., and let us not forget that wonderful playhouse he had! I don’t recall if previous films showed him working, but this one does. Another similarity to SpongeBob, he’s working on the grill. Hmmm…could SpongeBob be this generation’s Pee-Wee, of sorts?

What didn’t I like?

Capers. I get that this film was meant to just pick up where we last saw Pee-Wee on the big screen, at least in terms of how it was made. One small adventure after another worked for Pee-Wee’s last films, but I don’t feel as if it worked as well this outing. I honestly couldn’t tell you why, because it should have been just fine. Maybe it is just the fact that the way movies are made now, or perhaps it is because it felt like a series of bad sketches flimsily strung together. At any rate, by themselves, these capers would have been fine, but together it was trainwreck.

Another Pee-Wee? Alia Shawkhat is cute as a button. I saw she was cast in this film and I got so excited, hoping this would be a break for her. unfortunately is isn’t. Shawkhat is relegated to the unrequited love story, at least it appears that way, that should have been but never happens. You would think when they first meet and find out they are both names Pee-Wee (complete with the gazing into each other’s eyes) it would have gone somewhere, but nope. What a waste!

Something is off. Pee-Wee Herman has always been a forever young, eternally optimistic big kid. That is why he has been so popular through all these years, despite Paul Reubens’ adventures in a darkened theater. Well, someone decided that this Pee-Wee needed to be more sarcastic and less funny (much like today’s comedians). It ruins that character, which in turn brings down the film. If they are going to continue with more Pee-Wee stuff, he needs to go back to good ol’ Pee-Wee, not this version. Also, Reubens is starting to show his age. Not really anything that can be done about that, just an observation.

Final verdict on Pee-Wee’s Holiday? Netflix took a big chance with this project. It had been nearly 30 years since Pee-Wee was last seen entertaining anyone, save for some crowds that Reubens was testing material out on. I applaud them for ambition, but this feels cheap. With all the money they spend on Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Orange is the New Black, etc., a few more $$$ could have been shelled out to make this not look like a film student’s first film on green screen. I enjoyed what I saw, though I didn’t love it and can’t really think of a reason to rewatch, so no I do not recommend this flick.

3 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 4/28

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags , on April 28, 2016 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!!!

As we come to the conclusion of jazz month, I thought it would be a good time to share a couple of modern jazz trailers.

First is the lesser known of the two, Born to Be Blue, based on the life of cool jazz trumpeter Chet Baker. Check it out!

Second, is a similar film, but this one is based on the legend of jazz legend Miles Davis and is a passion project for actor and first time director, Don Cheadle. Check out the trailer for Miles Ahead.

St. Louis Blues

Posted in Classics, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on April 27, 2016 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Will Handy grows up in Memphis with his preacher father and his Aunt Hagar. His father intends for him to use his musical gifts only in church, but he can’t stay away from the music of the streets and workers. After he writes a theme song for a local politician, Gogo, a speakeasy singer, convinces Will to be her accompanist. Will is estranged from his father for many years while he writes and publishes many blues songs. At last the family is reunited when Gogo brings them to New York to see Will’s music played by a symphony orchestra.

What people are saying:

“Black casted movies are a rarity in and of themselves, but one with such mega stars of old was so very uplifting! The movie was made by blacks for blacks and had a plot, story-line and theme that blacks can indeed relate to with pride dignity and a sense of self-esteem. The movie is one that you can watch over and over again and get something more out of it each and every time. It deals with human weaknesses and pitfalls such as are common to man; but finishes on a high note of strength and victory because of faith in and love for God and perseverance. ”

“I found the father-son estrangement contrived along conventional religion vs the devil lines, but moving nonetheless. I had forgotten what a good piano player Nat Cole was. Ertha Kitt is the heart of the film. She acts as she sings — biting, precise, and all-knowing. I think the great Pearl Bailey is wasted here — wonderful as the Aunt, but we only hear her singing a snippet of the title song. Cab Calloway was also much more talented than permitted to be here. I saw him as “Sportin’ Live” in the post-WW II revival of “Porgy and Bess.” We get a too brief taste of the great clarinet player, Barney Bigard, and an anachronistic appearance by Ella Fitzgerald singing “Beale St. Blues.” The film provides a good definition of the blues as an authentic American musical and poetic form. This one, almost 50 years old now, has aged well. It makes one regret that more African-American based and performed films were not made when these great stars were available.”

“In the hands of a bolder director, this could be a better-remembered film. It was Allen Reisner’s second film, and he’d only do one more in a career that was dominated by television work. There are a few nicely expressive shots (W.C. and his father regarding each other through the lattice of the organ’s music stand) but the material often feels like it could soar higher. And it feels like someone should have tried to coax a better performance out of Cole. Still, the movie is worth checking out, especially for the music and for Eartha Kitt”

“After several years of only seeing the last hour of this movie, I finally watched the whole thing on Netflix Streaming. Nat King Cole plays the famous composer W.C. Handy and he’s not bad. I especially was touched when his character’s blindness caused him to bump into things. And non-musicians Juano Hernandez as his father Reverend Charles Handy and Ruby Dee as girlfriend Elizabeth, respectively, certainly hold their own when sharing scenes with singers Pearl Bailey and Eartha Kitt. Cab Calloway also effectively conveys his role as a hustling businessman though unlike the others, he doesn’t do any singing which is too bad. The actual story is probably more colorful than what was presented here but it wasn’t bad for what it was. And how enjoyable to see not only Ms. Bailey and Kitt do their thing but also Ella Fitzgerald and Mahalia Jackson, too! And of course, Nat King Cole looks cool every time he’s at the piano warbling Handy’s tunes. It was also interesting to see Billy Preston as a young boy at the beginning as the child Handy and such musicians like Barney Bigard, Teddy Buckner, George “Red” Callender, Lee Young, and George Washington sitting in the band. Really, all I’ll say now is St. Louis Blues is worth seeing for the number of musical icons in one film that are presented here. ”

“I really enjoyed this movie. And it was really nice seeing my all-time favorite singer, Mahalia Jackson, use her acting skills. Also, Pearl Bailey was very funny in this film- the protective aunt, as I would call her. Eartha Kitt was great and very believable- she really played the part! Nat “King” Cole, to me, still seemed a little shy on camera, but I was told that he was a shy individual. Young Billy Preston did very well with his acting and he “tore up” that organ- as he is already known for doing. There just aren’t any words that I can use to describe my feelings for this video, except for it’s awesome, great, and fantastic!”

Blue Mountain State: The Rise of Thadland

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 22, 2016 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

According to the official website of the movie, the plot is: “With Blue Mountain State football star Thad Castle (Alan Ritchson) recently signing a multi-million dollar NFL contract, his teammates and college life seem like a distant memory. However, when a new school dean threatens to clean up the BMS image by auctioning off the infamous Goat House, Alex, Sammy and the boys must find a way to convince him to get involved. Despite his new fortune and fame, there is one small favor that Thad needs done before he saves the day: the biggest booze-and-sloot fest in BMS history. Welcome to Thadland!” The film focuses entirely on one wild party to make an end for it all.

What people are saying:

“It was all the worst parts of the show strung together in a mish mash of terrible plot lines. They brought back Radon and Shiloh, but neither of them had anything to do with the plot, if you can even call it a plot.” 1 star

“Nowhere near as good as the show- kinda felt like the writers were just trying to fit loads of cameos and one-liners in without thinking it through. Such a shame!” 3 stars

“I loved the series! When I heard they were making a movie, I was so excited, but this movie feels like Thad wrote the script for it.” 2 stars

“Greatest thing out there! So glad BMS gave this to its fans. This was a series I wish would never have ended!” 5 stars

“Huge fan of the show, but this movie was not good overall. There were some parts that had me laughing, but way more parts that had me wanting to turn it off. I would give it zero stars if I could.” 1 star

Trailer Thursday 4/21

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on April 21, 2016 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!!!

This week, we return to our theme of jazz films with the 1958 Nat King Cole film, St. Louis Blues. Have a peek at the trailer and enjoy! Be sure to notice all the major stars in this thing…wow!

Chicken Little

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 17, 2016 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In the small town of Oakey Oaks, Chicken Little rings the school bell and warns everyone to run for their lives, allowing the whole town into a frenzied panic with much damage ensuing. Eventually, the Head of the Fire Department calms down enough to ask him what’s going on and Little explains that a piece of the sky shaped like a stop sign had fallen on his head when he was sitting under the big oak tree in the town square; however, he is unable to find it. His father, Buck Cluck, assumes that this “piece of sky” was just an acorn that had fallen off the tree and had hit him on the head, making Little the laughing stock of the town.

A year later, Little has become infamous in the town for being crazy. His only friends are outcasts and underdogs like himself: His literal “Ugly Duckling” friend — the dorky and supportive Abby Mallard (who has a not-so-secret crush on him), Runt of the Litter (who ironically is extremely large), and a literal Fish Out of Water (who wears a helmet full of tap water).

Trying to help, Abby encourages Little to talk to his father, but he really only wants to make his dad proud of him. As a result, he joins his school’s baseball team in an attempt to recover his reputation and his father’s pride but is made last until the ninth inning of the last game. Little is reluctantly called to bat by the coach (even though the coach is certain that he will lose the game for them).

Little is able to hit the ball and make it past first, second, and third bases, but is met at home plate by the outfielders. He tries sliding onto home plate, only to be touched by the ball. While it’s presumed he lost the game, the umpire brushes away the dust to reveal Little’s foot barely touching home plate, thus declaring Little safe and the game won; Little is hailed as a hero for winning the pennant.

Later that night at home, Little is hit on the head by the same “piece of the sky” that he had mentioned earlier at the beginning — only to find out that it is not a piece of the sky but a device designed to blend into the background (which would thereby explain why Little was unable to find it last time). He calls his friends over to help figure out what it is.

When Fish pushes a button on the back of the piece, it becomes a hovercraft in which Fish rides on. It turns out to be part of the camouflage of an invisible UFO. Little manages to ring the school bell to warn everyone, but aliens who have emerged from the spaceship see everyone coming and manage to escape, leaving an orange alien child behind. No one believes the story of the alien invasion, and Little is ridiculed yet again…until the next day.

He and his friends discover the little alien (whose named turns out be Kirby) and a few minutes later, a whole fleet of spaceships descends on the town and start what turns out to be an invasion, which is actually a misunderstanding, as the two aliens are looking for their lost child and only attack out of concern. As the aliens rampage throughout Oakey Oaks vaporizing everything in their path, Little realizes that he must return the alien to his parents to save their planet. Despite this, he first has to confront his father and regain his trust.

As he begins to tell his father the truth inside an abandoned cinema, Abby bursts in and says they should address the problem, as in the invasion, but because it is a phrase that she used to Little about his issues with his dad, then he begins to explain them. Little talks about what his father was doing and that he had emotionally let Little down by not being there for him and not listening to him enough. After he and his father reconcile and begin to leave to return Kirby to his parents, Little runs back down the row of seats to Abby and tells her that he always found her extremely attractive and he kisses her, only for her to act silly.

Their first attempt to return the child to his mom and dad is aborted when they witness town mayor Turkey Lurkey get apparently vaporized, after offering the key to the city, the key to his car and finally Tic Tacs as surrender terms.

In the invasion, Buck, now regaining his confidence and trust in his son, protects him from the aliens until they get vaporized. It is then discovered that the aliens weren’t vaporizing people, but the ray guns had teleported them aboard the UFO. Afterwards, the aliens return everything to normal (except Foxy Loxy, whose brain got scrambled, turning her into a Southern belle, and as a result, Runt falls for her), and everyone is grateful for Chicken Little’s efforts to save the town.

One year later, the townsfolk have made a film about the story, exaggerating it incredibly. In the film, Little is more masculine and Abby is far more beautiful in reality, and Fish can speak properly. After the film finishes, everyone begins to celebrate, Buck lifts Little onto his shoulders as he is applauded, and Abby (now his girlfriend), kisses him on the cheek

REVIEW:

In our infant and/or toddler years, we are all told the story of Chicken Little, as a way to deter us from becoming big fat liars. I don’t think it worked that well, look at all the lawyers, politicians, and cable tv execs in the world today! Disney took note that the story just wasn’t working in its old fashioned telling and gave us their version of Chicken Little.

What is this about?

No one believes Chicken Little (who has a history of overreacting) when he tries to warn of an alien invasion. But this time it’s the real thing — so it’s up to him and his misfit friends to save the world!

What did I like?

Creativity. When dealing with a story that is more of a passed down tale, it is important to come up with characters to keep the audience interested. These animators did just that in bringing to life other characters from similar tales like Foxy Loxy and the Ugly Duckling, as well as taking random saying and making them characters like Runt of the Litter and Fish out of Water. The characterization given to each of these side characters was interesting, as well. Who knew that Turkey Lurky was the mayor of Oakey Oaks?

Papa can you hear me. It seems like every family film these days has some sort of family struggle. I was almost going to say this is a negative thing for this picture, but then I realized how the relationship and characters grew. Sure, Chicken Little and his dad have some issues, but when the time comes, they quickly work those issues out and are ready to work together to save the world!

Scared straight. If I were watching this as a kid, I would have been enthralled by the bright and colorful characters, but when the aliens come down and start blowing stuff up, as if it were War of the Worlds, then I would’ve been scared out of my wits. Truthfully, the scenes where the aliens are vaporizing everyone and everything can be scarring for a child, until you see a little later on that the people are just vaporized to a dark limbo. It is Disney, after all, they can’t go around randomly killing people and destroying things

What didn’t I like?

Come together. Is there some unwritten rule in film that says the lead character has to have a love interest, even if they are supposed to be kids? I saw no reason for Chicken Little and Ugly Duckling to hook up, unless they were forced to. It made no sense to the how the story was progressing. Sure, the tease of a childhood crush is fine, but to have them actually get together in the middle of an alien invasion?!?

Another widower. Think of every Disney cartoon and movie for a second. How many of them had the “nuclear family”? Not many that I can think of. Most of our characters were raised in one-parent households, if any at all! Ace Cluck is another in the long line of a widowed fathers raising his kid after the mother has left, for whatever reason (kidnapping, divorce, death, etc.) I appreciate telling us that at least there was a mother, but know I want to know what happened to her.

Small time. You may notice that Chicken Little is very small. I think this is only mentioned once or twice. Normally, I’d be ok with that, but it seems that this is such a major part of his character bringing it up some more would have done wonders. Also, the short gags pretty much write themselves!

Final verdict on Chicken Little? This is a cute kids film about a tale we have all been told time and time again. The creators got creative with the characters and inserting the alien invasion plot was an interesting addition, to say the least. The furry alien rescue mission was a letdown after all the buildup, but I think that is more of me not thinking as a kid watching. All in all, this is a pretty solid flick and I highly recommend it.

4 out of 5 stars

Trailer Thursday 4/14

Posted in Trailer Thursday with tags on April 14, 2016 by Mystery Man

It’s Trailer Thursday!!!

Let’s go back to 1967 and check out the original The Jungle Book, especially since the live action remake is being released tomorrow.

Watch and enjoy!

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