Archive for March 21, 2009

Gung Ho

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , on March 21, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

When a Japanese automaker takes over a failed American auto plant, differences between American and Japanese work ethics threaten to close the plant.

The local auto plant in Hadleyville, Pennsylvania, which supplied most of the town’s jobs, has been closed for nine months. Former foreman Hunt Stevenson (Michael Keaton) goes to Tokyo to try to convince the Assan Motors Corporation to reopen the plant. The Japanese company agrees, and upon their arrival in the U.S., they take advantage of the desperate work force to institute many changes. The workers are not permitted a union, are paid lower wages, are moved around within the factory so that each man learns every job, and are held to seemingly impossible standards of efficiency and quality. Adding to the strain in the relationship, the Americans also find humor in the demand that they do calisthenics as a group each morning, and that the Japanese executives eat their lunches with chopsticks and bathe together in the river near the factory. The workers also display a poor work ethic and lackadaisical attitude towards quality control.

The Japanese executive in charge of the plant is Oishi Kazihiro (Gedde Watanabe), who has been a failure in his business career thus far because he is too lenient on his workers. He has been given one final chance to redeem himself by making the American plant a success. Intent on becoming the strict manager his superiors expect, he gives Hunt a large promotion on the condition that he work as a liaison between the Japanese management and the American workers, to smooth the transition and convince the workers to obey the new rules. More concerned with keeping his promotion than with the welfare of his fellow workers, Hunt does everything he can to trick the American workers into compliance, but the culture clash becomes too great and he begins to lose control of the men.

In an attempt to solve the problem, Hunt makes a deal with Kazihiro: if the plant can produce 15,000 cars in one month, thereby making it as productive as any Japanese auto plant, then the workers will all be given raises and jobs will be created for the remaining unemployed workers in the town. However, if the workers fall even one car short, they will get nothing. When Hunt calls an assembly to tell the workers about the deal, they balk at the idea of making so many cars in so short a time. Under pressure from the crowd, Hunt lies and says that if they make 13,000, they will get a partial raise. After nearly a month of working long hours toward a goal of 13,000—despite Hunt’s pleas for them to aim for the full 15,000—the truth is discovered and the workers strike.

Because of the strike, Assan Motors plans to abandon the factory again, which would mean the end of the town. Hunt responds by addressing his observations that the real reason the workers are facing such difficulties is because the Japanese have the work ethic that too many Americans have abandoned. While his audience is not impressed, Hunt, hoping to save the town and atone for his deception, and Kazihiro, desperate to show his worth to his superiors, go back into the factory and begin to build cars by themselves. Inspired, the workers return and continue to work toward their goal, and pursued it with the level of diligence the Japanese managers had encouraged. Just before the final inspection, Hunt and the workers line up a number of incomplete cars in hopes of fooling the executives. The ruse fails, but the strict CEO is nonetheless impressed by the workers’ performance and declares the goal met.

As the end credits roll, the workers and management have compromised, with the latter agreeing to partially ease up on their requirements while the workers agree to be more cooperative, such as participating in the morning calisthenics.

REVIEW:

This film may have been released over 20 years ago, but the subject is still relevant in today’s world. I’m actually surprised no one has tried to remake it. Surprised, but glad. I know that if it was remade, they’d make it dark and moody, as well as take out the comedy and replace it with dramatic scenes, totally screwing the film up.

Michael Keaton give a pretty good performance in this role. Here he gets to show off his comedic as well as dramatic chops. There are quite a few endearing moments that really let him shine.

Gedde Watanabe is best known for playing the nerdy guy in every role I’ve seen him in. This is a little bit less nerdy, but still a bit on the nerd side. He actually isn’t too shabby as the boss.

The rest of the cast is pretty good, but no one really stands out, except for those that stll have careers now. I always find it interesting to see established actors in earlier roles.

For a comedy, especially in the 80s, this film really didn’t have too many laugh out loud moments. Yes, there were a few chuckles here and there, but nothing big enough to talk about. If not for a strong performance from Michael Keaton, this film would be unbearable. Thank good ness Ron Howard went on to become a much better director than he was in these days. Still, for those who just have a passion for 80s films, then feel free to check this out.

3 out of 5 stars

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Hitch

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Romantic with tags , , , , , , , on March 21, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Alex “Hitch” Hitchens (Will Smith) is a professional “date doctor”, or consultant as Hitch terms himself, who coaches other men in the art of having the perfect date with the woman of their dreams.

While coaching one of his clients, Albert Brennaman (Kevin James), who is smitten with celebrity Allegra Cole (Amber Valletta), Hitch finds himself falling for Sara Melas (Eva Mendes), a gossip columnist who is determined to unmask and ruin the so-called date doctor after one of his “clients” (with whom Hitch refused to work) had a one-night stand with her best friend. However, where Albert and Allegra’s relationship continues to progress, Hitch finds that none of his tried and tested methods are working on himself, despite being a master of the art. For example, he takes Sara to Ellis Island to find her ancestor, but discovers her ancestor was a violent murderer. After Hitch is unmasked, he and Sara break up, and Allegra and Albert follow suit.

Finally, Hitch confronts Allegra and convinces her to reunite with Albert, before reconciling with Sara. In the process, he makes the startling discovery that he doesn’t really do anything significant; and that most of his customers (particularly Albert) really were successful by just being themselves.

In the end, Albert and Allegra get married and celebrate their marriage with Hitch and Sara, who are also back together again. Hitch, reflecting on love’s unpredictability, addresses the audience in the last line: “Basic principles… There are none“.

REVIEW:

I can’t think of anyone better to advise guys on dating than Will Smith. He and his wife Jada have been married for what can be deemed as eternity in Hollywood terms. If there is a real date doctor out there, I hope he’s out there helping out those that really need help.

Will Smith does an excellent job with this character. Most of his roles have been action packed, and we forget that he does have some comedy chops, but romantic comedy? Who would have thought?

Kevin James was a surprise. Like many people, I’m used to seeing him on King of Queens. He never showed that he can pull of a role such as this that has depth and feeling.

Eva Mendes is a bit of a stiff and just doesn’t work for me in this part. She has moments, but I think a more capable actress would have worked. I read that Jennifer Lopez was offered the role. Not sure if she would have done better, but I guess we’ll never know. Still, it would have been interesting to see her chemistry with Smith, because Eva doesn’t have any that’s for sure.

Yes, this is a romantic comedy, but it’s more for the guys. None of this “love has to be just like this, or else” stuff that you get in chick flicks. This film offers a guy’s perspective on things. There is even a scene where Hitch explains why things are so hard between men and women.

It seems like it gets harder and harder to find a good date movie that you can just cuddle up on the couch and both of you can enjoy, but this is one of them. Plus, who doesn’t like Will Smith? Women want him and men want to be him. So, heat up some popcorn, pop this in the DVD player, cuddle up on the blanket and enjoy.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Posted in Action/Adventure, Comedy, Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 21, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Buffy (Kristy Swanson) is a popular cheerleader at Hemery High School in Los Angeles. She is a care-free popular girl whose main concerns are shopping and spending time with her friends. She is soon approached by a man named Merrick Jamison-Smythe (Donald Sutherland). He informs her that she is The Slayer and he is a Watcher that has been sent to train and guide her. At first she refuses to accept her duties, but eventually sees there is no other way. She admits that she has dreams of past Slayers and reluctantly acknowledges that she is the Chosen One. She runs into Pike (Luke Perry), who is seen as a loser in her school. He becomes the the male version of the stereotypical “damsel in distress”, being rescued by Buffy many times.

After brief training, she is drawn into conflict with a local vampire king called Lothos (Rutger Hauer), who has killed a number of past Slayers. Lothos kills Merrick, giving Buffy the motivation she needs. In a climactic battle set at the senior dance in her high school, Buffy defeats Lothos and his minions by being true to her own contemporary style and ignoring the conventions and limitations of previous Slayers.

REVIEW:

This is the film that spawned the wildly successful Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. The only problem is, they don’t resemble each other in the slightest way. Joss Whedon who created Buffy, said that this wasn’t what he had in mind when he wrote the script. Still, it had to have been good for something, otherwise, the show never would have made it to the air, right?

Kristy Swanson does a really good job as Buffy. Now, no one believed she would be a butt kicking vampire hunter, but that’s part of why this role worked for her.

Luke Perry had just left Beverly Hills, 90210when he took this role. I believe this may have been the reason he left. He believed it would be the start of bigger and better things. Unfortunately, it hasn’t worked out that way, but that’s not his fault. His character isn’t the most interesting to play and the audience can’t seem to get behind him until the end. Still, Perry does what he can with what he had to work with.

Rutger Hauer is a fairly decent head vampire, but nowhere near the level of some Draculas we’ve seen on film.

Paul Reubens, better known as Pee-Wee Herman, may have been the best part of the film. He really stole the show.

I can see how Joss Whedon wasn’t a fan of this, but I happened to like it. I guess that is because I’m a fan of lighter fare and don’t too much care for the dark side of things. If you are a fan of the show, then you probably won’t care for this film, other than to see where it originated from. As for everyone else, watch and bask in the cheesy 90s-ness of it.

4 out of 5 stars

The Three Caballeros

Posted in Animation, Classics, Disney, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on March 21, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

It is Donald Duck’s birthday (his age is not revealed). He receives three presents. The first present is a film projector which shows him a documentry on birds. The next present is a book given to Donald by Jose Carioca himself. This book takes them to Bahia. The third present is a piñata given to Donald by Panchito Pistoles. In the piñata, there are many surprises. The celebration ends with Donald Duck being fired away by firecrackers in the shape of a bull (the firecrackers are lit by Jose with his cigar).

Throughout the film, we see a voiceless character called the Aracuan Bird at random moments. He usually pesters everyone, sometimes stealing Jose’s cigar. His most famous gag is when he re-routes the train by drawing new tracks. He returns three years later in Disney’s Melody Time.

Film segments

  • The Cold-Blooded Penguin involved a penguin named Pablo, who is so fed up with the freezing conditions of the South Pole that he decides to leave for warmer climates.
  • The Flying Gauchito involved the adventures of a little boy from Uruguay and his winged donkey, Burrito.
  • Bahiainvolved a pop-up book trip through Salvador, the capital of the Brazilian state of Bahia, as Donald Duck and José Carioca meet up with some of the locals who dance an interesting samba and Donald starts pining for one of the females in the group.
  • Las Posadaswas the story of a group of Mexican children who celebrated Christmas by re-enacting the journey of Mary and Joseph searching for room at the inn. “Posada” means “inn”, and they are told “no posada” at each house until they come to one where they are offered shelter in a stable. This leads to festivities including the breaking of the piñata, which in turn leads to Donald Duck trying to break the piñata as well.
  • Mexico: Pátzcuaro, Veracruz and AcapulcoPanchito gives Donald and Jose a tour of Mexico on a flying zarape. Several Mexican dances and songs are learned here. A key point to what happens later is that Donald seems to be a “wolf” to the ladies again, hounds down every single one he sees, and tries to gain return affections, but fails.
  • You Belong To My Heart The skies of Mexico result in Donald falling in love with a singing woman, and leads to scenarios that resemble acid trips or being high of the sort, literally. It is believe the woman singer is Dora Luz. The lyrics in the song itself play parts in the scenarios as to what is happening as well.
  • Donald’s Surreal ReverieA kiss, or several to be exact, lead to Donald going into the phrase “Love is a drug.” This scene is similar to Pink Elephants on Parade, for being a major “drunk” scene. Donald constantly invisions sugar rush colors, flowers, and Panchito and Jose popping in at the worst moments. The scene changes after Donald manages to dance with who could be a Zandunga dancer, but the “drunkness” slows down for a moment, but speeds up again when a Mexican girl uses a conductors stick to make Cacti do just about anything while dancing “Jesusita en Chihuahua”, a Mexican Revolution trademark song. This is a notable scene for live action and cartoon animation mixing, and well animation among the cacti. The scene is interrupted when Panchito and Jose spice things up, and Donald ends up battling a toy bull with wheels on its legs. The catch is that it’s loaded with firecrackers and other explosives.

REVIEW:

I know there are those of you out there that don’t care for these package features that Disney released during wartime, but not everyone thinks as you do.

Similar to Saludos Amigos , this film has many Latin American influences, including the return of Jose Carioca.

This film introduced fans to Panchito Pistoles and the Arawakan bird, not to mention brought us the endearing story of Pablo the penguin.

Musically speaking, the film has some catchy tunes and a beutiful ballad from Dora Luz, entitled “You Belong to My Heart.” Is it any wonder Donald was smitten with her?

I guess the best way to sum this all up is that this is a good family film, but if you’re one of those that thinks classic films from yesteryear aren’t worth watching and all you’re going to do is ridicule every minute of it, then stay way. For the rest of us that actually appreciate and respect things, then you’ll have a good time with this film.

4 out of 5 stars

Saludos Amigos

Posted in Animation, Classics, Disney, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on March 21, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

This film features four different segments, each of which beginning with various clips of the Disney artists roaming the country drawing cartoons of some of the local cultures and scenery:

  • In Lake Titicaca, American tourist Donald Duck visits the title location and meets with some of the local yokels, including an obstinate llama.
  • Pedroinvolves the title character, a small airplane from Chile, engaging in his very first flight to pick up air mail from Mendoza, with near disastrous results. Disappointed with Pedro as the image that the outside world had of Chile, Cartoonist René Ríos Boettiger (Pepo) started one of the most famous latinamerican comic: Condorito
  • In El Gaucho Goofy, American cowboy Goofy gets taken mysteriously to the Uruguayan pampas to learn the ways of the native gaucho. This segment was later edited for the film’s video release to remove one scene of Goofy smoking a cigarette.
  • Aquarela do Brasil(or “Watercolor of Brazil”), the finale of the film, involves a brand-new character, José Carioca, showing Donald Duck around South America and introducing him to the samba (to the tunes of “Brazil” and “Tico-Tico no Fubá”).

REVIEW:

This is another of the famous package features the Disney studios released during the time of the World Wars. I was a little shocked that it was more of a documentary, though.

Many people don’t care for documentaries, and I am no exception. Perhaps in the 40s, though, it was different. However, the animated segments are very entertaining.

I was hoping that Mickey Mouse would have made the trip to South America since appareantly Donald Duck and Goofy did, but that’s just my personal bias.

The segment with Pedro is probably one of the cutest little cartoons I’ve ever seen, and the introduction of Jose Carioca wasn’t half bad either.

The Disney animators back in those days really got into their work as opposed to today where they just program stuff into a computer. The work they did capturing the essence of South America in each segment is marvelous. Any animation fan will enjoy this, as will everyone else.

4 out of 5 stars