Archive for April, 2009

Bye Bye Birdie

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The movie begins with Ann-Margret singing the title song written especially for the movie, “Bye Bye Birdie”. Conrad Birdie (Jesse Pearson), a popular rock & roll star (similar to Elvis Presley), receives an Army draft notice, devastating his teenage fans across the nation. Albert Peterson (Dick Van Dyke), a friend of Birdie’s who is studying to be a chemist, is struggling as a songwriter to please his overbearing mother (Maureen Stapleton). He schemes with his secretary and long-suffering girlfriend Rosie (Janet Leigh) to have Birdie sing a song Albert will write called “One Last Kiss” on The Ed Sullivan Show, and then kiss a randomly-chosen high school girl goodbye before going off to the Army. This will make big money for Albert, who can marry his secretary/girlfriend Rosie. Albert’s meddlesome mother will do anything to separate her son from Rosie. Sweet Apple, Ohio, is chosen as the location for Birdie’s farewell performance because the Russian Ballet, which is scheduled to be the other guest on Sullivan’s show, happens to be in town on its goodwill tour of America.

The random local girl chosen is Kim MacAfee (Ann-Margret), but Kim already has a high school sweetheart, Hugo Peabody (Bobby Rydell). The teenagers of Sweet Apple, blissfully unaware of their town’s impending fame, are spending the “Telephone Hour” catching up on the latest gossip: Kim and Hugo have just gotten pinned (popular USA slang of the era for “going steady”). Kim feels grown up, and declares “How Lovely to be a Woman”. When Birdie arrives, the teenage girls tell him, “We Love You Conrad”, but the boys despise him (“We Hate You Conrad!”). Sweet Apple becomes a very popular small town, and some of the locals are unhappy with the sudden celebrity, especially after Conrad shows off his hip-thrusting dancing as he performs “Honestly Sincere”. Albert is able to calm the town down. He befriends Mr. McAfee (Paul Lynde), who owns a fertilizer business, showing him one of his chemical inventions: a speed pill. Albert demonstrates the pill’s effect by giving one to Randolph McAfee’s (Bryan Russell) turtle.

Though Mr. McAfee is hesitant to allow his daughter to kiss Conrad on television, Albert placates him by telling him that their whole family will be on The Ed Sullivan Show. The MacAfees join in singing “Hymn for a Sunday Evening”, chorusing the praises of their favorite host. Rosie feels like Albert doesn’t appreciate her, so Albert persuades her to “Put on a Happy Face”. Hugo feels threatened by Conrad; after all, Conrad’s going to kiss his girl! Kim assures Hugo he’s the “One Boy” for her. Albert’s mother shows up, distressed to find Albert and Rosie together, and Mr. MacAfee doesn’t like the way Conrad is taking over his house; they lament how “Kids” just aren’t like they were. During rehearsal for the broadcast, Conrad kisses Kim, and she faints. Hugo is wounded, and he and Kim break up.

That night, Conrad and the teenagers have a “A Lot of Livin’ To Do” as they party, and Kim and Hugo flirt with everyone else, trying to make each other jealous. Rosie, fed up with Albert and his mother, dances and flirts with a room full of men at a Shriners convention in “Sultans’ Ballet”. Albert rescues her from the crazed Shriners.

The day before the broadcast of The Ed Sullivan Show, Albert and Rose are distressed because they have been told that the Russian ballet has switched to a difference dance and needs extra time, therefore Conrad Birdie will only get to take a quick bow, not sing the song or give Kim the farewell kiss. Rose slips a speed pill in the drink of the orchestra conductor (Gregory Morton) to speed up the ballet. There is a last minute shuffle of the show’s lineup to fill air time, and Conrad Birdie gets to appear on the show and sing “One Last Kiss”. Hugo interrupts the planned kiss by running onstage and knocking out Birdie on live TV. This impresses Kim, and all the couples (Kim and Hugo, Rosie and Albert, and Mama Mae and her new husband) find happiness (“Rosie”). Kim, now wiser, bids Birdie goodbye in “Bye Bye Birdie” (reprise).

REVIEW:

I remember watching the made-for-TV version of this while in high school and loving it, so I decided to give the original a shot. Lo and behold I believe that I like it better. I need to see the other version again to be fair, though.

The main drawing point of musicals is the music. The better the music then chances are the better the musical will be. Unfortunately, with a couple of exception, the songs in this film aren’t memorable. That’s not to say they aren’t good, but rather you won’t be singing/humming/whistling them for days after watching this.

Dick Van Dyke  is in his element here. He uses his natural acting and comedic skills as well as a bit of his dancing skills. I even noticed a move he used in Mary Poppins.

Janet Leigh does a pretty good job here, although her character is supposed to have been a woman of Latina decent in the original Broadway production. She had that working against her, so a spectacular performance on screen was required and she delivered.

Paul Lynde is bet known to me as the eccentric uncle on Bewitched. I swear that he almost makes me believe he’s straight in this role. Definitely one of his best screen gems.

This is not topping my list of musicals, but I do have it pretty highly ranked. It is a mixture of fun, controversial topics of the era it is portraying, and good music that all can enjoy. The cast is spectacular and there is plenty of 60s camp to go around. Sit back, watch, and enjoy!

4 out of 5 stars

Pinocchio

Posted in Action/Adventure, Animation, Disney, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 29, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The film starts with Jiminy Cricket singing the hit Disney song “When You Wish upon a Star”. Jiminy then talks to the audience for those who may not believe in the song’s optimistic words and recounts his experience of being one of those non-believers until he met Pinocchio. Through a storybook entitled Pinocchio(which acts as a window to Jiminy’s aformentioned adventure), we see an unnamed town in the night and the workshop of the woodworker Geppetto. Jiminy walks into the workshop to warm himself from the cold. He notices a puppet Geppetto is working on. Geppetto names the puppet Pinocchio and after making his marionette dance around for the amused and bewildered eyes of Figaro, his kitten, and Cleo, his goldfish, he decides to go to bed. He notices a falling star in the sky and wishes that Pinocchio could be a real boy. While everybody is sleeping Jiminy wakes up and notices a Blue Fairy entering the room. She makes Pinocchio come alive since Geppetto has always been a good man and deserves his wish to come true. Pinocchio is alive, but still nothing more than a puppet. If he wants to become a real boy of flesh and blood he must prove himself to be brave, truthful and unselfish and able to tell right from wrong by listening to his conscience. Pinocchio doesn’t understand what a conscience is and Jiminy appears to explain it to him. The Blue Fairy then assigns Jiminy with the official title of acting as Pinocchio’s conscience, changes him into better clothes, and disappears again.

Jiminy teaches Pinocchio that whenever he needs guidance he should whistle, as exemplified in the song “Give a Little Whistle”. Pinocchio tumbles over some furniture during the song and wakes up Geppetto, Figaro and Cleo who were asleep during the song. When Geppetto discovers his wish has become true, he is filled with joy and starts to celebrate by turning on all his clocks and music boxes. The next day Pinocchio goes off for his first day of school. Despite warning Pinocchio not to walk with strangers, the cricket is quickly ignored. Pinocchio never arrives at his destination since two crooks, the fox, Honest John, and the mute cat, Gideon, convince him to become an actor in the puppet show of Stromboli while singing the song “Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee”. Pinocchio immediately becomes a sensation singing “I’ve Got No Strings” at the theater and makes a lot of money for Stromboli. Stromboli however refuses to permit Pinocchio to return home and locks him up in a bird cage. During his captivity Jiminy reappears. He tries to open the lock on the birdcage, but the lock is too old and rusty, and he admits that only a miracle would help them get out of that mess. Suddenly, the Blue Fairy appears and asks Pinocchio to explain what happened. Pinocchio lies and to his surprise his nose starts to grow longer. The Blue Fairy explains to him that his nose grew because he lied. When Pinocchio admits he lied, and Jiminy pleads to the Blue Fairy to give Pinocchio one more chance, she forgives him and helps them escape, by unlocking the birdcage: disappearing right after. Pinocchio and Jiminy get out of Stromboli’s coach, and go back towards home.

Meanwhile, Honest John and Gideon have met The Coachman in a tavern. The Coachman promises them a large sum of money if they can bring him little boys whom he can lead to Pleasure Island. The mentioning of the island and the Coachman’s evil grin scare Honest John and Gideon, but they nonetheless lure Pinocchio away and deliver him to the Coachman. Jiminy Cricket, again unable to warn Pinocchio of the danger, travels with him incognito. During the travel to Pleasure Island Pinocchio befriends Lampwick, a misbehaving and destructive boy who is older than he. On the island boys are able to have fun and do all the things their parents and other adults usually tell them not to do, such as: gambling, drinking, brawling, smoking and vandalism. Pinocchio imitates Lampwick and has fun doing all these mischievous things. A furious Jiminy Cricket tries to make Pinocchio leave the location, but he is only ridiculed by Lampwick. Filled with anger and humiliation, Jiminy leaves them alone, but while trying to discover a way to leave the island, he makes a horrible discovery. The Coachman orders hooded goons to close the gates preventing any escape from the island. Jiminy sneaks under the locked gate to find a now-deserted Pleasure Island in ruins and littered with debris, which Jiminy comments looks like a graveyard. Jiminy then proceeds to where he hears voices and crying: a terrible curse on the island has transformed all the misbehaving boys into donkeys for literally “behaving like jackasses” (the curse) and are then sold by the Coachman as work forces in salt mines and circuses. Jiminy rushes back to warn Pinocchio, but it’s already too late. At a pool hall, Lampwick gradually transforms into a real braying donkey and Pinocchio has already developed donkey ears and a donkey tail from tobacco and beer. Pinocchio stops drinking and smoking once he realizes what they are doing to Lampwick, thereby preventing any further transformation into a donkey, although it is too late for Lampwick, as he screams for help, only to lose his senses by braying and smashing a mirror with his new hooves. Pinocchio still has donkey ears and a tail, but keeps his mind and body, although at a later point when Pinocchio jokes about his donkey tail he starts braying like Lampwick, only to regain his voice when he realizes donkey ears are a mark of shame, not humor. Jiminy and Pinocchio quickly escape and swim back to their hometown.

Back home, they find Geppetto is not home, and neither are Figaro or Cleo. There are cobwebs in here. Pinocchio and Jiminy are informed by the Blue Fairy that Geppetto ventured out to sea to rescue Pinocchio from Pleasure Island, but was swallowed by a whale named Monstro. Pinocchio, wracked with guilt, decides to travel underwater at the bottom of the ocean with Jiminy to find him. Pinocchio and Jiminy are swallowed by Monstro and discover his father, Cleo, and Figaro on a ruined boat inside the whale’s stomach. After a happy reunion Pinocchio comes up with an escape plan by burning wood on the boat to create smoke to make Monstro sneeze. The plan works, but the enraged sea mammal chases them. He destroys their raft and Geppetto almost drowns, only to be saved by Pinocchio who tries to swim him to the shore. Monstro swims after them, but crashes into a cliff on the rocky coastline, knocking him out and causing a tidal wave. Everyone washes onto shore and survives, except Pinocchio who was drowned by the enormous wave.

In Geppetto’s home everybody mourns over Pinocchio’s death. But the Blue Fairy decides that Pinocchio has proven his his worth in being a brave, good boy and brings him back to life as a real boy. Everyone celebrates Pinocchio’s revival and Jiminy is awarded an 18 karat gold medal by the Fairy for acting well as Pinocchio’s conscience. The film ends with Jiminy once again singing “When You Wish upon a Star”.

REVIEW:

Pinnochio has long been one of those Disney films that I believe to be among the best animated and contains one of the best stories. The little wooden boy has endeared himself to billions of fans over the years and this film still stands the test of time.

As the film progresses, there are a few catchy songs, and it seems as if this was going to to the way of a musical, but about halfway through, the music stops. nothing wrong with that, but I believe it would have been better with a couple of other songs. Apparently, there were songs that got cut, so it is quite possible that this was meant to have been a musical film. Having said that, it contains one of the most beautiful of all Disney songs, the hauntingly beautiful “When You Wish Upon a Star.”

Pinnochio is a reluctant hero. After the Blue Fairy brings him to life, he  goes through the usual naivety, but after he returns from Pleasure Island, he seems to have gained a new found confidence and wisdom. Maybe it was something in the ears and tail, but it just seemed a bit sudden. My guess is that the part of the character development that dealt with this change ended up on the cutting room floor.

Jiminy Cricket is one of the most beloved characters in the Disney universe, and this is the film that introduced him to us.

Geppetto seems to be a distant relative of the absent minded professor. One thing that has always caused me to question this film, si what he was doing out on the middle of the ocean looking for Pinocchio. It may have been covered in the book, but not in the film, as far as I saw. On top of this, why did he take Cleo and Figaro with him. Speaking of Cleo. After they all wash up on shiore after being tossed around by Monstro, she is still in her bowl. Cartoon logic…gotta love it!

The villains in this film, Honest John and Gideon, Stromboli, The Coachman, and Monstro, are all unique in their own way, but only Monstro poses any real threat. Stromboli and The Coachman just provide tough situations.

Pleasure Island is an interesting concept…and way for the characters to say jackass in 1940…lol I would have liked to have gotten some kind of explanation as to what kind of magic is behind the whole boys turning into donkeys thing.

There are some holes in the plot, but most of those seem to be pieces that were cut out for time purposes and don’t really hurt anything unless you’re trying to over think this nice family film. I have issues with those that go that far into trying to decipher films. Movies are meant to be enjoyed. Yes, we can want a bit more information here and there, but not to the extent of knowing every detail about every character. Pinnochio is one of those films that people have enjoyed time and time again. Why not join the masses?

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Foxy Brown

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , on April 29, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Foxy Brown, a sexy black woman, seeks revenge when her government-agent boyfriend is shot down by The Man. She links her boyfriend’s murderers to a “modeling agency” run by the campy villains of Steve Elias (Peter Brown) and Miss Katherine (Kathryn Loder). Foxy decides to pose as a prostitute to infiltrate the company, and helps save a fellow black woman from a life of drugs and sexual internment. This leads Foxy to a variety of revenge-themed setpieces -often violent and sexual- that range from the cremation of sexual-slavemasters to the castration and presentation of a foe’s genitals.

REVIEW:

Blaxploitation films were all the rage in the 70s. When you think of some of the greatest films of that genre Foxy Brown has to be at or near the top of that list.

While Coffy introduced the world to Pam Grier, this film is the one that really made her a star. There are a lot of simlarites between the two characters and, as a matter of fact, this was meant to be a sequel. She exudes and embodies toughness and sexiness at the same time, all while keeping her cool.

This film is more entertaining than Coffy. The plot moves along smoother and the characters are more relatable. It should be noted that Quentin Tarantino’s film, Jackie Brown, was influenced by this picture. They even both star the luscious Pam Grier.

As a fan of Pam, of course I’m going to love this film, but for those of you out there that aren’t familiar with her work, you will be entertained by this film as well. It has murder, conspiracy, action, and a funky 70s soundtrack. Why wouldn’t you want to check it out?

4 out of 5 stars

National Lampoon Presents Dorm Daze

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Spoofs & Satire with tags , , , , , , , , on April 28, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Dorm Dazeunfolds during a crazy afternoon at a university co-ed dormitory in the days before Christmas break when one of the students, Styles McFee (Patrick Renna), hires a prostitute named Dominique (Boti Bliss) for his unwitting brother, Booker (Chris Owen), to lose his virginity. Booker prefers to lose his virginity to his long-term sweetheart Rachel (Gable Carr) who lives down the hall. Meanwhile, another student Wang (Paul H. Kim), awaits the arrival of a French foreig exchange student, also named Dominique, (Marie-Noelle Marquis) who speaks little English. As a series of mistaken identities and mishaps escalate into monumental proportions starting when Wang leaves for work, Dominique the Student arrives and is mistaken for the prostitute by Styles, while Dominique the Hooker is mistaken for the student by others including the two dorm gossip queens Lynne (Jennifer Lyons) and Marla (Danielle Fishel).

Other plotlines involve Adrienne (Cameron Richardson), who is targeted by the dorm geek Newmar (Tony Denman), with whom they had a drunken fling the night before. Adrienne tries to find a missing handbag belonging to her friend, Claire (Tatyana Ali), who is having boyfriend troubles with Tony (Edwin Hodge). Adrienne’s roommate, Gerri (Marieh Delfino), inadvertently gets her hands on another handbag similar looking to Claire’s which is filled with $30,000 in cash. Gerri is soon mistaken for a shadowy hitwoman, named Brittany the Snake, by a local gangster named Lorenzo the Black Hand (Courtney Gains). Elsewhere, Pete’s (Patrick Cavanaugh) punk friend Cliff (James DeBello) enters the dorm when Pete has to go to work. Cliff soon teams up with Dominique the Hooker to find the missing handbag with the cash while the token gay student Foosball (Randy Spelling) works his way through all the plots of this collegiate comedy.

REVIEW:

I typically go for films that are of the screwball variety, but this one just didn’t entertain me. With the name National Lampoon in the title, you would expect this to be hilarious, but instead it was a bad picture.

There are a few good things going for this film. Plenty of good looking women keep the make audience glued to the screen, including child stars Danielle Fishel and Tatyana Ali. The character Foosball is the most interesting in the entire cast. This film isn’t too long, so the pain is short.

The plot makes no sense. The rapid screwballness just doesn’t work.

I’ve never seen a dorm that looks like this. I know mine didn’t.

*SIGH* With all the faults this has, I think a second viewing may change my mind about it, but not likely. I have to warn you to stay away from this film if at all possible. If you must watch it, then wait for it to appear on Comedy Central or something, otherwise find something more worth the hour and half.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Last Action Hero

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Spoofs & Satire with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 27, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Danny Madigan (Austin O’Brien), is a boy whose love of action movies (especially those of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is played by himself) keeps him out of school and in trouble. His favorite movie franchise is the fictional Jack Slater series, which is preparing for the release of its fourth installment.

On the day before the premier of Jack Slater IV, Danny visits his friend Nick, an old man who runs a run-down movie theater in downtown New York City. He offers Danny a private screening of the film, an offer which Danny is quick to accept, especially when Nick offers him a gold-plated ticket which he claims was given to him by Harry Houdini.

Several minutes into the movie, the stub of the ticket begins to glow blue, and suddenly some dynamite thrown from within the movie lands in the theater, putting Danny into shock. Before he can escape, the dynamite explodes, and Danny vanishes.

Confused, Danny awakens in a moving vehicle, which he quickly discovers is driven by his “action hero”, Jack Slater. He soon realizes that he was somehow transported into the film, and begs Slater to help him find his way back to the real world. Slater, however, refuses to help, not believing that HIS world is just a movie.

After Danny’s attempts to convince Slater of his true nature (including pointing out that Slater is unable to swear even when trying to) repeatedly become unsuccessful, he suddenly recognizes a mansion from the film’s introduction, and, knowing that it is where the “bad guys” are, convinces Slater to check it out. The two find Tony Vivaldi, the crime boss advertised as the villain for Jack Slater IV, and his English henchman Mr. Benedict (Charles Dance). Benedict overhears Danny discussing his knowledge of Benedict’s role in the movie, and — like Slater, not understanding he himself is in a movie — is intrigued to find out how Danny could come about such information.

Benedict double-crosses Vivaldi, killing him, and awaits Slater’s arrival at the mansion. When Slater arrives with Danny, Benedict manages to obtain the ticket stub which Danny still has, and vanishes into the real world before Slater’s eyes. Puzzled, Slater follows Danny back through the portal into the real world, where the battle continues.

Both Slater and Benedict become acquainted with the nature of the real world; Slater, with the help of Danny’s mother, realizes that there are more important things in the world than action, and decides that he would not return to the world that he considers a lie. Meanwhile, Benedict continues with his evil ways, especially when realizing that in the real world it is possible for the “bad guys” to win, and hatches a plan to kill Arnold Schwarzenegger at the premier of Jack Slater IV, thereby causing Jack Slater to cease to exist. Discovering this plan, Danny convinces Slater to go with him to the premier. There, Slater encounters “The Ripper”, the villain from Jack Slater III. Slater kills the Ripper by electrocuting him, but is fatally shot in the chest by Benedict, a very unfamiliar concept in the film world. Benedict has now begun to plan world domination, but Slater gets Benedict’s gun, and shoots him in the eye, causing the bomb in his glass-eye to detonate, which blows up Benedict and sends the ticket off the roof. The ticket lands in front of a nearby theater, The Seventh Seal is playing and the ticket, in one last use, brings Death into reality. Heading back to the movie theater, they find The Seventh Seal’s Death, who, before returning to his movie, suggests using the other half of the ticket.

Following Death’s advice, Danny returns Slater to the movie, where his fatal injury turns out to be “just a flesh wound”. Accepting his reality for what it really is, Slater drives off into the sunlight, renouncing his old ways.

REVIEW:

When this film was released, t seemed as if Arnold was the last action hero. Well, he and Bruce Willis. Now 16 yrs later, they still may be the last action heroes because all other action movies are based on comic books. Nothing wrong with that, but they don’t make original action films anymore, and those that star in said film are the only ones that I consider action stars.

Arnold pokes a bot of fun at his self with the character, not to mention there is a scene where he gets to meet himself. Jack Slater is a true action star, but takes Danny under his wing when he suddenly appears in his car. We all know that most other action stars would have kicked him out or worse.

This film within a film is a great satire of the excess unbelievability of some action films. This is what makes the film so awesome.

THe magic ticket is a nice plot device, and of course somehow it falls in the wrong hands.

The villains are your typical action movie type that are bent on world domination, but Benedict had a little more depth tp him being a flawless marksman.

The plethora of cameos in this film seems to be never ending, including Sir Ian McKellan, Robert Patrick, Tina Turner, Sharon Stone, MC Hammer, Angie Everhart, just to name a few.

In terms of  film making, this isn’t the greatest, but it is pretty good. There is plenty of action and adrenaline to go around, and a nice ending to it all. Forget the “governator” Arnold, this is how I prefer to remember him, as a fun loving action star.

4 out of 5 stars

Evolution

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , on April 26, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

College professor Ira Kane is invited by geology teacher/girls’ volleyball coach Harry Block to investigate a meteorite that has crash-landed from outer space into a network of underground caverns under the sleepy Arizona town of Glen Canyon. They collect a sample and find that it contains extraterrestrial single-celled nitrogen-based organisms, which evolve into multi-celled organisms by the time Ira gets Harry to his office to see the discovery they made.

Impressed, the two take the science class to survey the meteor site, where the primeval ooze from the meteor has rapidly evolved to consist of oxygen-converting fungi and alien flatworms that thrive on the converted atmosphere. However, the military, led by General Russell Woodman, whom Ira worked for five years ago before he was discharged, managed to learn of his finding via tapping his computer and attempt to control the situation, locking Ira and Harry out. When they protest, Dr. Allison Reed of the Centers for Disease Control reveals in a court settlement two weeks later that Ira oversaw a disastrous field test of a new anthrax vaccine that caused debilitating and humiliating side-effects in the test subjects – referred as the “Kane Madness.”

Meanwhile, the evolving aliens take advantage of the caverns under Glen Canyon, and begin to pop up at the surface, vainly attempting to adapt while attacking any human that crosses their path. Ira and Harry are assisted further by Wayne Grey, a young firefighter trainee who was the first to encounter the meteor the night it crashed to Earth.

At a meeting, Allison reveals that the aliens’ incredible growth rate makes them inherently uncontrollable and that they could over-populate the United States in a matter of weeks. Woodman decides that the alien threat needs to be combated with napalm. Allison quits to help Ira solve the crisis with the parcel of primordial ooze he collected, learning, after Harry accidentally throws a match into the ooze, that the aliens evolve rapidly when exposed to intense heat – which means that napalming them will only make the problem worse.

By morning, Ira determines the solution: selenium may be a poison to the nitrogen-based aliens as arsenic is to carbon-based life-forms (i.e. humans), based on their similar positions in relation to each other on the periodic table. Ira’s two most underachieving students, Deke and Danny Donald, tell the group that selenium is the active ingredient in Head & Shoulders dandruff shampoo.

The six of them round up as much Head & Shoulders as they can, load up a fire engine acquired by Wayne, and set out to kill the aliens before the military strike goes ahead. Woodman, however, begins the strike earlier than planned, forcing an evolutionary response as an alien amoebic life-form begins to metamorphose out of control, growing to gigantic proportions while it engulfs the other aliens in the process of surfacing and overwhelming the army before it begins mitosis. Fortunately, Ira and Harry manage to stop the creature with the selenium before it can asexually reproduce.

In the aftermath, Governor Lewis holds a press conference as soon as possible, congratulating each member of the heroic party personally (at the same time announcing Wayne’s sudden promotion to the fire service as reward for his part). However, Ira and Allison sneak away before he can get to them, and make love in the cabin of the fire truck.

REVIEW:

Even though this film deals with biology related material, you do not have to be well versed in science to understand it.

David Duchovny turned down a role Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, to do this film. I’m not sure that was such a good thing, but I am a Star Wars fan, so I’m a little biased. Duchovy does his best work, in my opinion, in these sci-fi films. Here he reminds me of the leading men from the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Orlando Jones is at his most hilarious in this role. As Professor Block, he provides the wide eyes humor filled sidekick (for lack of a better term) to Duchovny’s Dr. Kane.

Julianna Moore is not a name you would think of when it comes to physical comedy, but she does a good turn as the klutzy Dr. Reed.

Sean William Scott rounds out the main cast as fireman in training Wayne Grey. This is the kind of role that made Scott famous (after the American Pie films). He mixes naive stupidity with cockiness and creates a great character.

The effects in this film are great, but low budget. However, as with many great sci-fi films, the effects don’t need to be the best to make the movie, rather its what they do with them.

I wonder how much Head & Shoulders sales went up after this film. Good to know tht something so simple can end up saving the world after our boneheaded, triggerhappy military dooms us all, isn’t it?

Yes, this is more of a comedy, than a true sci-fi film, but it’s still pretty cool. I’m sure there are those that scoff at this because it isn’t serious, gory, or scary enough. Fact of the matter is, not every sci-fi movie these days has to be borderline horror. Get over yourselves and have some fun. Yes, that’s right, this is a fun film. *GASP* Unheard of these days, right? Take a chance and give this film a try. You’ll be sure to enjoy it.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Pretty in Pink

Posted in Chick Flicks, Classics, Comedy, Drama, Movie Reviews, Romantic with tags , , , , , , , , on April 26, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Molly Ringwald stars as Andie Walsh, a poor but fashion-conscious New Wave girl who has a crush on one of the rich boys in her school, Blane McDonough (Andrew McCarthy). When Andie and Blane try to get together, they encounter resistance from their respective social circles.

Andie lives on “the wrong side of the tracks” with her unemployed, sluggish father (Harry Dean Stanton). She is trying to convince him to get a job and seems to be struggling with it. Her mother left the family a few years before. To save money, Andie buys secondhand clothes and uses her sewing and fashion skills to create unique New Wave clothes. She drives an old, beat-up, dusty rose-colored lowlight Karmann Ghia. Her best friend is Duckie Dale (Jon Cryer). Duckie has intense feelings for Andie, often riding his bike around her house, but plays it off as a joke in front of her. In school, she and Duckie are harassed by friends of Blane, the so-called “richie” kids Benny (Kate Vernon) and Steff (James Spader). Unbeknown to Andie, Blane is harboring romantic feelings towards her as well.

Andie works at TRAX, a New Wave music store in Chinatown, managed by her older mentor friend Iona (Annie Potts), who dresses younger than her years and moans about her newly single life. Iona advises Andie to go to her senior prom despite not having a date. Blane and Andie talk for a brief moment as Blane buys an album. Andie then begins developing feelings for Blane. She discusses them with a few friends at the local club, CATS.

Soon, Blane makes his move via chatting in the computer lab and Andie is smitten. Blane ventures out to the area at school where the punks, metalheads, and New Wavers hang out during lunch and after classes, and asks Andie on a date. Steff begins questioning why his best friend “was conversing with a mutant”, but Blane brushes him off.

On the Friday night of the date, Andie waits for Blane at TRAX, but he is late. Duckie arrives instead, only to find Andie upset because she thinks she’s been stood up. When Blane finally arrives, Duckie and Andie argue when he sees who she is going on a date with. Duckie tries to convince her that Blane will only hurt her and that his group is all the same. Andie attempts to convince Duckie otherwise. After a few harsh words, Duckie storms out, frustrated and hurt. Andie goes on her date with Blane.

First, Blane suggests going to a party Steff is throwing. But the party isn’t exactly what Blane expected, and Andie is treated poorly by everyone, including a drunk Steff and Benny. Andie, in turn, suggests going to CATS, where they discover Iona sitting with Duckie. Duckie is immediately hostile toward Blane, and as he and Andie start walking out of the club, Duckie yells to Andie that she’s been “replaced” soon after kissing Iona. It is obvious, however, that Duckie is bluffing. Blane offers to take Andie home, but she declines. He offers to take her somewhere to eat, but again, she refuses. They briefly argue then Andie finally admits she doesn’t Blane to take her home because she doesn’t want him to see where she lives. Despite the bad date, Blane drops Andie off at her home and the two end the night with a kiss. Blane asks Andie to the prom and she excitedly accepts. The next day, Andie visits Iona in her loft in Chinatown to tell her about the previous evening and the prom date. Iona begins reminiscing about her own prom, donning her old pink prom dress and a beehive hairstyle.

At home, Andie’s father surprises her with a pink dress he bought for her at the thrift shop. Questioning how he was able to afford it, Andie discovers he has been faking going to a full-time job. The two begin to fight until her father breaks down, obviously still bitter and depressed about his wife having left him. Andie responds by comforting him and they make up but she, too, seems distressed about the breakup as she looks at a picture of her mother and cries.

Meanwhile Blane, pressured by Steff and his reputation as a “richie”, begins distancing himself from Andie. He avoids her at school and doesn’t return her calls. She finally confronts Blane, yelling at him to admit that he is embarrassed to be seen with her. He claims that he had asked someone else to go to the prom with him before he’d asked her, but had forgotten about it. Andie runs away, heartbroken. Duckie overhears Steff trashing Andie and they end up fighting in the hallway. Teachers come out of the classrooms to stop the fight, and Duckie runs down the hall and out the door, tearing down the prom night banner on his way out.

Andie seeks more advice from Iona, only to find her preparing for a date with a yuppie, dressing like her age for a change. Iona is so excited about the new man in her life that she is already thinking about marriage. At first she is too wrapped up in her new romance to notice that Andie is upset, but when she realises her friend is unhappy they talk about Andie’s problems. Iona’s new found happiness inspires Andie and she goes home with her friends old prom night dress and creates a new pink dress in which she decides to attend the prom to “show them they didn’t break [her].”

When she gets to the prom her confidence deserts her and she’s clearly having second thoughts about braving the crowd on her own. Just as it looks like she may change her mind and not go in to face her tormentors, she sees Duckie, also dressed up for the prom, looking at her from afar. Seeing her friend braving the same social situation strengthens her resolve and, having instantly made up, they walk into the ballroom hand in hand. Steff snickers and begins trashing Andie and Duckie again, only to be finally told off by the normally passive Blane. Blane says that Andie would never go for him because she sees him for who he really is; with all his money, he could never buy her. Blane walks over to the pair, shakes Duckie’s hand and tells Andie that he always believed in her, he just didn’t believe in himself. He says he’ll always love her no matter what and leaves the prom. Duckie concedes that she was right, “He’s not like the others” and advises Andie to go after him. After Andie leaves, a blonde girl (Kristy Swanson) notices Duckie and silently invites him to go over and dance with her.

Outside of the prom, Andie catches Blane in the parking lot just before he gets to his BMW and they kiss in the misty night.

REVIEW:

One of the 80s’ quintessential films, Pretty in Pink takes the audience on a roller coater ride of emotions as they follow Molly Ringwald.

Ringwald was the ‘it’ girl in the 80s, and after watching this, and this is one of the films that really made her career. Here she is a good girl daughter of a divorced father who doesn’t have much money. Her financial status causes other girls at her high school to have animosity towards her, but she ignores them for the most part. This is a the typical good girl with a bit of toughness that Ringwald typically plays, but why mess with a winning formula?

Annie Potts reminds me of Cyndi Lauper in this film. Part of that has to do with the fact that they vaguely resemble each other, and the first time we see her she looks like she just came from Cyndi concert. Lauper-ness aside, Potts plays a good boss, friend to Ringwald and really is the best friend that she’s lacking.

I only know Jon Cryer from Two and a Half Men,so seeing him here as Duckie is a bit weird for me. He is a total different character from his sitcom persona, that’s for sure, but he is no less the talented actor. Of course, every film like this has to have the friend that will do anything for the main character and that’s what Duckie is.

Andrew McCarthy comes in as the yuppie who falls in love with Ringwald. His character seems a bit vapid to me, though, especially since he nearly loses her in order to keep his douche of best friend, played by James Spader.

John Hughes has created a nice little romantic film here. The characters are deep, the soundtrack is enjoyable, and those I’m pretty sure there are those that will get a little emotional watching it. Make no mistake,  fellas, this is not a movie for us, this goes in the “chick flick” category. That doesn’t mean it’s not a good film, though.

4 out of 5 stars

The Sword in the Stone

Posted in Animation, Classics, Comedy, Disney, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , on April 26, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The Sword in the Stonefollows the future King Arthur’s life during his adolescence and education by the wizard Merlin. The film starts with the introduction of the situation when Uther Pendragon died, leaving England kingless and in no law and order. Then, a miracle, the Sword in the Stone appears in London, proclaiming that whomever pulls it out is the rightful King of England. However, none succeed in removing the sword; believing the miracle had not worked, the sword was forgotten and England returned to the Dark Ages.

Some years later, the wizard Merlin predicts to Archimedes, his owl, that a person of some significance would drop in on him later that day. We then see Arthur, a 12-year-old orphan training to be a squire who lives with his foster father Sir Ector and his older foster brother Kay who call him Wart. Wart accidentally falls from a small tree onto Kay, who is trying to shoot a deer. Kay chases after Wart, who volunteers to find the arrow in the wolf-filled forest. One wolf takes an interest in Wart, which acts as comic relief. Wart falls out of a tree and into Merlin’s cottage.

The two introduce themselves (as well as the ever-indignant Archimedes), and Merlin announces he will be Wart’s tutor. Merlin packs up and accompanies Wart back to Sir Ector’s castle, who has been worrying about the boy. While first refusing Merlin’s offer to tutor Arthur (and does not believe Merlin’s claim to wizardry). Merlin creates a “Wizard Blizzard” over Ector (in the month of July!), who allows him to stay – and puts Merlin in the rickety and leaky ‘Guest Room’ tower. Later, Ector’s friend Pellinore arrives with news from London. There will be a jousting tournament on New Year’s Day, and the winner shall be crowned King of England. Ector immediately proposes that Kay be knighted and compete for the title.

For his first lesson, Merlin transforms Wart into a perch and himself into a trout. In the moat, Wart is chased and attacked by a huge pike, while Merlin is temporarily disabled, having been trapped in an old helmet and, momentarily, forgeting the magic words. Wart works to outsmart the beast, but Archimedes flies down and plucks Wart from the pike’s jaws.

Wart, having told Ector about the fish lesson, is confined to the kitchen. Merlin arrives to teach Arthur, and magics the dishes into an assembly line. Merlin transforms Wart into a squirrel. Though Wart begins by learning about the principle of gravity, two female squirrels become infatuated with both of them, and the lesson turns into male-female relationships and romantic love. After the girl rescues from Arthur from a wolf (the same one who has been following him throughout the film), Merlin transforms both of them back into humans. While Merlin’s squirrel companion is horrified and then outraged, Wart’s companion is visibly heartbroken.

Meanwhile, the cook has discovered the dishes washing themselves, and calls Ector and Kay to stop the spell, but they are instead pummeled by the scrubbing brushes, mops, etc. Merlin and Wart arrive and Merlin stops his spell, but Ector accuses him of using black magic. Wart defends Merlin, but Ector will not listen, he announces that Kay’s squire will be Hobbes (who we do not meet), not Arthur.

For his last lesson, Merlin transforms Wart into a sparrow. This time, Archimedes teaches Wart the principles of flight. While Wart is skilled and clearly enjoying it, a hawk attacks, forcing Wart down “The Magnificent Marvelous Mad Madam Mim”‘s chimney. Mim is a witch whose magic uses trickery, which she claims is more useful than Merlin’s educational wizadry. Wart (still a sparrow) is unconvinced, and Mim (knowing that, in her book, all good things are bad), decides that she will have to destroy him; she turns into a fat pink cat and chases him around her cottage.

Merlin arrives and challenges Madame Mim to a Wizard’s Duel (the combatants try to defeat each other by changing themselves into various forms to destroy one another). The rules: Only animal transformations, ‘no make-believe things, like pink dragons and stuff’, ‘no disappearing’ (which Mim breaks very early), and ‘no cheating’. The two turn into various animals. Then, Mim loopholes by turning into a large purple dragon. However, Merlin transforms himself into a germ and infects her with a debilitating disease. She is defeated, bedridden and furious. Wart ‘s lesson is that knowledge is the greatest power.

Christmas comes, and Kay is now knighted. Coincidentally, Hobbes has come down with the mumps and Ector reinstates Wart as Kay’s squire. Arthur runs to tell Merlin, who is disappointed that Wart still prefers war games to academics. Wart tries to explain that, as an orphan, he cannot become a knight and that a squire is the best position he can attain and that he was lucky to be Kay’s squire. Merlin however becomes angry and transports himself to 20th-century Bermuda (he did that unwittingly, through his howling exclamation of “Blow me to Bermuda!”).

Sir Ector, Kay, Arthur and Pellinore (and Archimedes), travel to London for the tournament. As Kay’s turn to fight approaches, Wart realizes that he has forgotten Kay’s sword at their inn. Kay yells at him to go get his sword, or not to come back at all. The inn door is locked (everyone is at the tournament). Archimedes notices and points out to Arthur a sword in an anvil on a stone in a churchyard. When he touches the sword, a light streams from heaven. Briefly surprised by the light, Wart backs away twice. In the end he pulls the sword from the stone, unwittingly fulfilling the sword’s prophecy.

Wart returns with the sword and hands it to Kay, but Ector recognises “the Sword in the Stone” and the tournament is halted. Unable to believe that a child succeeded, the crowd demands that Wart prove that he took the sword. The assembled audience follow Sir Ector and Wart to the churchyard and Ector replaces the sword in its anvil. The arrogant Kay and others attempt to pull it out, but it remains immovable. Pellinore and Sir Bart the Black Knight insist that Wart be allowed to try. As Wart pulls the sword from the stone for the second time, the heavenly light shines down again. Sir Bart asks Ector what the boy’s name is; Ector says “Wart”, quickly correcting it to Arthur. Sir Bart cries “Hail!! King Arthur!!”, and the crowd follows suit. Ector (commanding Kay to do the same) then humbly kneels, and asks for forgiveness for his short-temper.

Trapped in his throne room by cheering crowds, Wart feels unprepared to be a king. Wart calls out to Merlin for help, who appears (in Bermuda shorts, sunglasses, etc.). Merlin is elated to find that Wart will be the King Arthur that he has seen in the future. Merlin tells the boy that he will rise and lead the Knights of the Round Table. (After making sure he doesn’t want a square one instead) He continues to talk about the future, revealing other anachronistic information, including that they’ll make a movie about this.

REVIEW:

There are numerous films that tell a million different versions of the legend of King Arthur, but only Disney can do it like this.

Arthur is portrayed as a young squire who happens to pull the sword from a stone and becomes king in the interpretation. nothing wrong with that, except that, as one person put it on a message board I was reading, the people just accept that he goes from scrawny squire to king. I don’t see the issue, but apparently, those of the cynical persuasion do.

Merlin and Archimedes really bring in the comedy. Merlin is the absent minded professor while Archimedes is the voice of reason. The contrast between the two is classic!

Madame Mim is a nice little villain, but she’;s on the screen for less than 20 minutes, doesn’t really pose that much fo a threat, and is no Maleficent, Jafar, or even Scar! Still, she’s good for this film, even if she could have been used a bit more in place of scenes with Sir Ector.

One thing I have always had an isse with in this film is that it seems to make some major jumps, especially at the end. If they’re going to jump like that, they need to say how much time they skip.

Classic Disney films are some of the best in cinema, and this is no exception. It definitely goes in the book as one of the most underrated, though. Check it out and you won’t be sorry!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Batman Begins

Posted in Action/Adventure, Drama, Movie Reviews, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 26, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Eight-year-old Bruce Wayne falls into a well, where he encounters a swarm of bats. Later, he accompanies his parents to a production of Mefistofele, which features actors dressed as bats. Having developed a fear of bats, he urges his father to leave the opera. Outside the theater, Joe Chill mugs and kills Bruce’s parents. Although Chill is later arrested, Bruce blames himself for his parents’ murders.

Fourteen years later, Bruce returns to Gotham City from Princeton University, intent on killing Chill, whose prison sentence is being suspended in exchange for testifying against mobster Carmine Falcone. Before he can act, however, one of Falcone’s assassins kills Chill. Bruce tells his childhood friend Rachel Dawes about his plan; Appalled, Rachel tells him that his father would be ashamed of him. Bruce confronts Falcone, who tells him that he is ignorant of the nature of crime, so Bruce decides to travel the world to understand the criminal mind. He is detained for theft in a Bhutanese prison, where he meets Henri Ducard. Ducard invites Bruce to join an elite vigilante group, the League of Shadows, led by Ra’s al Ghul. Bruce is freed and travels to a mountaintop to begin his training with the League. Bruce overcomes his childhood fear of bats in the process. When he is ordered to execute a criminal and learns of Ra’s intention to destroy Gotham, he refuses and escapes by lighting the League’s temple on fire, killing Ra’s in the process. Bruce rescues an unconscious Ducard from the wreckage and leaves him at a village.

After seven years of being abroad, Bruce returns to a Gotham City ruled by Falcone, and plots his war against the city’s corrupt system. He seeks the help of Rachel, now an assistant district attorney, and police sergeant Jim Gordon, who consoled him after his parents’ murder. After reestablishing his connections to Wayne Enterprises, Bruce acquires, with the help of former board member Lucius Fox, a prototype armored car and an experimental armored suit. In his first night, he disrupts a drug shipment, and leaves Falcone tied to a searchlight, forming a makeshift Bat-Signal. He also disrupts an assassination attempt on Rachel, leaving her with evidence against a judge on Falcone’s payroll. While investigating the drugs in the shipment, Batman is stunned by Dr. Jonathan Crane (Cillian Murphy), an Arkham Asylum psychiatrist on Falcone’spayroll, who sprays him with a powerful hallucinogen. Bruce’s butler Alfred Pennyworth rescues him, using an anti-toxin developed by Fox to save him. Crane later poisons Rachel after showing her that the toxin, which is lethal in vapor form, is being piped into the city water supply. Batman saves her and attacks Crane with his own poison. When the police arrive at Arkham to arrest Crane, Batman escapes with Rachel in the Batmobile. After administering the antidote to her in the Batcave, he gives her two vials of it for Gordon – one for inoculating himself and the other for mass production.

Later at Wayne Manor, Bruce is confronted at his birthday celebration by a group of League of Shadows ninjas led by Ducard, who reveals himself to be the real Ra’s al Ghul, and that the man killed earlier was a decoy. Ra’s, who had been conspiring with Crane the entire time, plans to destroy Gotham by distributing the toxin via the city’s water supply, and vaporizing it with a microwave-emitter stolen from Wayne Enterprises. Bruce dismisses his guests by insulting them while pretending to be drunk, and fights briefly with Ra’s while the League set fire to the Manor. At the last minute, Bruce escapes the inferno with Alfred’s help. Batman arrives at the Narrows section of Gotham to aid the police in battling psychotic criminals—including Crane, now calling himself “Scarecrow”—whom the League set free. Rachel is briefly confronted by Crane, but quickly wards him off with a taser before being chased by more inmates. After saving her, Batman reveals his identity to her, and leaves Gordon in control of the Batmobileto stop the elevated train used to transport the weapon to the city’s central water-hub at Wayne Tower. Batman battles Ra’s aboard the train, then escapes just as Gordon topples the elevated line using the Batmobile’s autocannons, leaving Ra’s to crash to the ground and perish in the explosion.

Following the battle, Batman becomes a public hero. Bruce Wayne gains control of Wayne Enterprises and installs Fox as the new CEO. However, he is unable to hold onto Rachel, who cannot reconcile her love for Bruce with his dual life as Batman. Newly-promoted Lieutenant Gordon unveils a Bat-Signal for Batman. Gordon mentions that they will have their hands full finding all of the psychopaths released from Arkham by Ra’s, and in particular notes a criminal who also has “a taste for the theatrical” and leaves Joker playing cards at all of his crime scenes. Batman promises to investigate it, and disappears into the night.

REVIEW:

I want to make it perfectly clear that I don’t care for Christian Bale or Christopher Nolan’s interpretation of Batman. Having said that, I am a fan of the bat and keep an open mind. Don’t judge me, I have my opinions, you have yours.

Personal feelings aside, Bale does not do Batman justice. He seems very wooden. As Bruce Wayne he lacks compassion that the character has in the comic. Now, I will say that Bale is good in the action scenes and one-liners, and, unlike in The Dark Knight, he doesn’t go overboard with trying to make Batman’s voice so gravely that it distracts.

Liam Neeson is nearly a dead ringer for Ra’s al Ghul. If he was of Middle Eastern decent, he’s be dead on. Aside from certain deviations from the source material, Neeson does a pretty good job of nailing it on the head. Even going so far as to maintain the respect, contempt, and disdain that Ra’s has for Bruce Wayne.

Katie Holmes had all the freedom in the world with her character since Rachel was created for this film. Unfortunately, she doesn’t make it her own. Like Bale, she is very wooden and the audience can’t connect with her.

Cillian Murphy’s Scarecrow would be a much better character if he wasn’t a pawn in Ra’s’ scheme. I read somewhere that Scarecrow was going to be the villain i the next Batman film before they decided to reboot, so there was a bit of faith that he could have carried a film, but I guess Nolan felt he could do more with Ra’s al Ghul.

Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine add some nice support to the cast.

I do not care for the Batmobile. It is too big and tank like. The Batmobile has always been sleek and inconspicuous. Why did Nolan feel the need to bring in a tank? I would like to know.

The water evaporator is a nice plot device, but I couldn’t help but be reminded of the dehydrating device from the 1966 Batman.

One thing that I really love about this film is how it goes into the training Bruce received. Most Batman origin stories skip over that or mention it.

There isn’t enough action in the film for my taste. It was bordering on getting too dramatic and preachy when it could have some real action.

For those of you that are into these dark films, this will be a treat for you. For those of us that prefer lighter fare, it’s a bit of torture, though. Yes, its an interesting take on Batman’s origin, but all the fun that the previous films have has been sucked out so that Nolan can make a “real” film. Newsflash, Batman is a comic book superhero! He does not need to be real! If you can get past all that, though, you should enjoy this film. Despite my feelings toward Nolan and Bale, this is a very good film.

4 out of 5 stars

G.I. Joe: Resolute

Posted in Action/Adventure, Animation, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 26, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

G.I. Joe is a highly trained, classified special operations unit composed of men and women from around the globe. Officially, these warriors don’t even exist. Few know the truth – that G.I. Joe fights a secret war, as the first and last line of defense against forces that seek to plunge our world into chaos. Wherever there’s trouble, G.I. Joe is there.

In G.I. Joe: Resolute, the raging battle between G.I. Joe and Cobra has never been more intense. Every life is at stake… and even the good guys can die.

This is no game.

Your favorite characters are back… but this time, no one is safe. No parachutes. No lasers. No rules.

All games end today.

REVIEW:

I grew up on G.I. Joe in the 80s, and am eagerly awaiting the live action film that is set to be released near the end of this summer. I was a little disappointed to find out that they have all but abandoned everything that made G.I. Joe a popular series, though.

A few of the reviews that I’ve read about this have said that this is what the show should have been in the first place. I disagree. For me, this was too dark and real. One of the things that many people are forgetting these days is that cartoons and movies can and should be escapes from reality. So, a few lasers and larger than life plots won’t hurt.

A highlight of the film was the story/battle between Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes. The relationship between these two has always been an interesting one, but this new version seems to have lost the mutual respect they share for each other in favor of  a blood rivalry.

I could be wrong, but I don’t remember Cobra Commander ever being out for money. His goal was always world domination as I recall, so the fact that they have him with his plot to extort money from the UN just makes no sense to me.

They say that they updated and made it more mature for fans of the original series. Speaking for myself, updating it did nothing but ruin everything. They took all the fun out of it and replaced it with realisticness. Maybe I’m just nostalgic, but I believe this was a mistake. The hope is that this does two things, from what I’ve read, put the idea into network’s heads about a new series, and garner some interest for the upcoming film. I think it will do the latter, but as far as the former, I don’t think will happen. This just doesn’t stack up. Feel free to watch it if you want, I won’t be wasting my time again.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Monty Python’s The Life of Brian

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Spoofs & Satire with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 25, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Brian Cohen is born in a stable a few doors from the one in which Jesus is born, a fact which initially confuses the three wise men who come to praise the future King of the Jews. They manage to put up with Brian’s boorish mother Mandy until they realise their mistake. Brian grows up an idealistic young man who resents the continuing Roman occupation of Judea, even after learning his father was a Roman Centurion – Naughtius Maximus – who raped Brian’s mother ("You mean; you were raped?", "Well, at first, yes"). While attending Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he becomes infatuated with an attractive young female rebel, Judith. His desire for her and hatred for the Romans lead him to join the People’s Front of Judea (PFJ), one of many factious and bickering separatist movements who spend more time fighting each other than the Romans (see Political satire below). The group’s cynical leader Reg gives Brian his first assignment: He must scrawl some graffiti on the wall of the governor’s palace. Just as he finishes doing this, he is confronted by a passing centurion who, in disgust at Brian’s faulty Latin grammar (“Romanes eunt domus“, or “the people called ‘Romanes’ they go the house”), forces him to write the grammatically correct message (“Romani ite domum” or “Romans, go home”) 100 times. By dawn, the walls of the fortress are covered in text. When the Roman guards change shift at daybreak, the new guards try to arrest Brian, but he manages to slip away with the help of Judith.

Brian then agrees to participate in a kidnapping plot by the resistance, which fails miserably (due to a clash with an "enemy" separatist faction intent on the same mission) and forces him to go on the run again. This time, he doesn’t evade capture and is summoned before Pontius Pilate. He tries to get away with it by claiming his Roman heritage, as the son of Naughtius Maximus. The captain of the guards refuses to believe the authenticity of the name. Pilate does not understand his doubt, to which the captain remarks that it would be like someone being named "Sillius Soddus or Biggus Dickus." Fortunately for Brian, the guards collapse into a giggling fit after an irate Pilate reveals that one of his best friends is a high-ranking centurion genuinely named Biggus Dickus (with a wife, Incontinentia Buttocks) and he makes his escape.

Following a series of misadventures (including a brief trip to outer space in an alien spaceship), the fugitive winds up in a lineup of wannabe mystics and prophets who harangue the passing crowd in a plaza. Forced to come up with something plausible in order to blend in and keep the guards off his back, he babbles pseudo-religious nonsense which quickly attracts a small but intrigued audience. Once the guards have left, Brian tries to put the episode behind him, but has unintentionally inspired a movement; and finds that some people have started to follow him around (MAN: We have walked many miles to see you oh great Messiah. What do you wish! BRIAN: BUGGER OFF!), with even the slightest unusual occurrence being hailed as a “miracle.” After slipping away from the mob (who are busy persecuting a “heretic” – actually a hermit that Brian unwittingly disturbed) and spending the night with Judith, he opens the curtains the following morning to discover that an enormous mass of people, proclaiming him the Messiah, has formed outside his mother’s house. Appalled, Brian is helpless to change the people’s minds, as his every word and action are immediately seized as a point of doctrine.

The hapless Brian cannot even find solace back at the PFJ’s headquarters, where people fling their afflicted bodies at him demanding miracle cures. Reg even claims that he has booked a session at the Mount for him. After sneaking out the back, he is finally captured and scheduled to be crucified. Meanwhile, a huge crowd of natives has assembled outside the palace, spurred on by the general feeling in the community that Brian’s fellow "prophets" have been exacerbating. Pilate (together with the visiting Biggus Dickus) tries to quell the feeling of revolution, by granting them the decision on who should be pardoned.

Instead, Pilate is just fed various names intended to highlight his speech impediment (Very well. I shall wewease Wodewick,. Biggus Dickus then attempts to take control of the situation by reading out the prisoner list, but the combination of his severe lisp and every prisoner having a name starting with S (e.g. Samson the Sadducee Strangler) causes the assembled hordes collapse to the floor in laughter at the spectacle. Pilate eventually orders Brian’s release, but (in a moment parodying the climax of the film Spartacus), various crucified people all claim to be "Brian of Nazareth" – one man stating "I’m Brian and so’s my wife" – and the wrong man is released. Various other opportunities for a reprieve for Brian are denied as one by one his "allies" (including Judith) step forward to explain why they are leaving the "noble freedom fighter" hanging in the hot sun. Condemned to a long and painful death, Brian’s spirits are lifted by his fellow sufferers, who break out into song with "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life".

REVIEW:

This is another classic from the Monty Python guys filled with spoofs, satire, and genuine British comedy. I warn you now, though, if you are one that gets easily offended by those that make fun of religion, then you’d do best to steer clear of this film.

Once again the cast includes Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin. Each takes on multiple roles in a comedic way.

The viewer can’t help but feel sorry for Brian throughout the film. He can’t catch a break, and the one time he does, when he sleeps with Judith, his mother barges in and fusses at him.

This is your typical Monty Python film, though the aliens that catch Brian about halfway through the film were totally random.

Critics have said this is the best of the Monty Python films, but audiences prefer Monty Python & the Holy Grail.  As hilarious and fun as this film was, it is no Holy Grail, and with the religious parts, I couldn’t help but wonder how many people would make a big stink after seeing this. All that aside, though, this is quite enjoyable and worth a watch (especially around Easter as a break from the typical Easter films).

4 out of 5 stars

Across the Universe

Posted in Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , , on April 25, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The film’s plot and narrative structure interweave the stories of several characters whose lives cross paths during events set against the backdrop of the turbulent middle 1960s. The story apparently takes place from about 1963, 1964, and 1965.

The story begins in Liverpool, England with a young shipyard worker named Jude Feeny (Jim Sturgess). Against the wishes of both his mother and his girlfriend Molly, Jude enlists in the merchant navy and travels by a ship to the United States of America. He jumps ship in New York City, New York to search for his American G.I. father, Wes Hubert (Robert Clohessy), whom he has never met and who does not know he exists. He learns that his father works at Princeton as a janitor. After meeting his father, Jude has nowhere to go. He befriends a Princeton student, Max Carrigan(Joe Anderson), a rebellious and eccentric young man from a privileged background. Max and his friends come from upper class families who pay for their schooling, so they mess around, drink, and do drugs. When Max goes home for Thanksgiving, bringing Jude withhim, Jude meets Max’s younger sister Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood). After a heated argument withhis parents about his future, Max drops out of college and moves to New York City, New York, accompanied by Jude. Max works as a taxi driver, while Jude pursues work as a freelance artist. They become roommates in a bohemian enclave in the Village, where they share an apartment with others, most notably Sadie (Dana Fuchs), their landlady, who is an aspiring singer and a representation of Janis Joplin. Other residents include Jojo (Martin Luther McCoy), a guitarist representing JimiHendrix, who arrives from Detroit, Michigan after the death of his younger brother during the 12th Street Riot; and Prudence (T. V. Carpio), a young woman who has hitchhiked to New York City, New York from Dayton, Ohio where she was seen pining after a fellow cheerleader. After Lucy’s boyfriend, Daniel (Spencer Liff) is killed in Vietnam, she goes to New York City, New York to visit Max before she starts college, despite the fact that her parents are against the idea.

Romantic relationships develop between Lucy and Jude, and between Sadie and Jojo. One night, Prudence (who seemingly has a crush on Sadie) becomes depressed, and hides in a closet. Upon realizing where she is, the rest of the cast coax her literally and figuratively out of the closet. Prudence mysteriously leaves the group after wandering off enthralled by street performers at a peace rally.

Sadie and her band, the Po Boys (reference to a line in Down on the Corner), withJojo as her lead guitarist, are courted by a prospective manager, who invites them to a book function for an existential drug guru named Doctor Robert, based on Ken Kesey. After serving punch that appears to be laced with LSD (aka Kesey’s Electric Kool-Aid), Doctor Robert lectures that the New Yorkers are two years behind the new agers of California, and urges everyone that “time is of the essence, we have to transcend fast”.

The friends embark with Doctor Robert and his followers on a epic journey inside a psychedelically painted bus named “Beyond”. They wake up not knowing where they are or how they got there, probably somewhere in Upstate New York. They learn Doctor Robert has taken them to the spiritual retreat compound of Dr. Frank Geary, a fellow psychonaut “Navigator”, and leader of a cult called “League of Spiritual Deliverance” (Geary is an allusion to Timothy Leary, who headed the International Foundation for Internal Freedom, from his estate in Millbrook). Geary refuses to see Doctor Robert who, resigned to this news, retires to California. The friends, however, are stranded.

At the cult compound, the friends are reunited with Prudence, who now is a performer in the circus of “Mr Kite,” a merry entertainer, who wants to challenge the world of show business with his “blue people.”

When Max is drafted and sent to Vietnam, Lucy becomes involved in the anti-war movement, while Jude (who, despite potentially having U.S. citizenship due to his American father, is still living without a visa and thus can’t be drafted) remains comparatively apolitical. Jude becomes unhappy withthe amount of time Lucy spends with a political group, Students for Democratic Reform (SDR), suspecting that its leader Paco is a lothario. Jude’s art and his relationship withLucy both start to falter.

Meanwhile, Sadie has been signed to the prospective manager’s record label, but he wants her to drop her backing band. She agrees, and this leads to a bitter break up between Sadie and Jojo, both musically and romantically. Sadie leaves to go on tour, while Jojo plays guitar in a local bar.

Meanwhile, the differences and tensions between Jude and Lucy escalate. One day, Jude storms into the SDR office where Lucy works and points out the hypocrisy and potential violence that they are heading toward, but he is thrown out by Paco’s people. This leads to an argument between the couple, which results in Lucy leaving Jude. Jude finds her at an anti-war demonstration at Columbia University during which many protesters, including Lucy, are arrested. Pushing through the crowd to help her, Jude is also beaten and arrested.

Lucy contacts Jude’s father Wes who convinces the police not to press charges, but he cannot prove that Jude is his son (and thus an American citizen), so Jude is deported to England. Going back to work at the Liverpool shipyards, Jude encounters his old girlfriend, Molly. She is now pregnant by Jude’s old friend and shipyard co-worker Phil Scully, which does not upset the apathetic Jude.

Max is wounded in Vietnam and is repatriated, emotionally and mentally shattered by his experiences and dependent on morphine to relieve his pain, while Lucy remains involved in her anti-war movement, which is becoming more and more violent. She finally leaves the group when she returns to the SDR headquarters one night to find the offices deserted and Paco and some of his followers making bombs. One of their bombs explodes, killing Paco and his confederates and destroying the building, an allusion to the Greenwich Village townhouse explosion that killed three members of the Weather Underground in 1965.

Jude reads about the explosion in a Liverpool newspaper and believes that Lucy has also been killed. However, he subsequently hears from Max that she is alive, and encouraged by a vision of Max singing “Hey Jude” to him and by his understanding mother he arranges to legally return to the United States. He meets Max, who drives him to Sadie’s music headquarters where a rooftop concert is being held by Jojo and Sadie (who have reunited) and their band (which now includes Prudence) singing “Don’t Let Me Down”. Lucy is supposed to be there, but she arrives late and cannot get into the building to join them on the roof. After seeing Sadie’s recording company logo (an abstract strawberry Jude had created – a reference to the Beatles’ Apple Corps), Lucy slowly walks away, overwhelmed with grief.

The police begin to force the group to leave. This is a reference to the Beatles’ rooftop concert on January 30, 1969, where “Don’t Let Me Down” was one of five songs sung by the Beatles before the concert was broken up by the police. Jude manages to evade the police and stay behind on the roof. Hesitantly, he begins to sing “All You Need Is Love”. Sadie, Jojo and the rest of the band hear him, and the police allow them to go back onto the roof to accompany him with their voices and instruments.

Down in the street, Lucy hears Jude as well and tries to enter the building, but is turned away by the police. Max suddenly looks out across the street as everybody else sings and begins to sing “She Loves You” as Jude turns to see Lucy, wearing a diamond necklace, standing on an adjacent roof. They smile at one another with tears in their eyes, and the screen fades out to white clouds and blue sky. This is a reference to “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” which plays in the background.

REVIEW:

As much as I love the music of The Beatles, I expected to love this film, yet I came away disappointed.

Jim Sturgess puts me in mind of a young Paul McCartney. He has that look about him, and if he really is singing throughout this film, he kind of has that sound to his voice. Acting wise, he isn’t to shabby, either, but his character gets a little too emo for my taste about halfway through. He does snap out of that phase, but not before he all but hits rock bottom.

Evan Rachel Wood starts off the film as the ideal 60s American girl, then after her boyfirnedis killed in Vietnam she gradually morphs into a radical. Nothing particularly wrong with that, but I got the sense the writers didn’t mean for that to happen. It should also be noted that she doesn’t do much singing. For a major character in a musical, something just doesn’t sit right with me about that.

The supporting players are all pretty good, but with all the jumping around this film does, its hard to keep up with them and their lives. I did find the story line between Sadie and Jojo, which encompassed all their love and professional problems. I wasn’t too fond of the Prudence storyline. While it is never explicitly said that she is gay, it is quite obvious, but because so little time is spent to develop her, the audience can’t get behind her.

As a musical, this is ok, not great, but far from being subpar. My issue with it is that they remade the BEatles’ music. As with film remakes, I’m no fan of remaking artists songs unless you can do it justice. The only one of these songs that could fall into that category is “Let It Be” which is actually not that far removed from the original version. John Lennon and George Harrison must be turning over in their graves after seeing this, while Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr cringe and count their money.

I don’t want to make it sound like I hated this film, because I didn’t, although I did lose interest halfway through. I think if not for the mutated Beatles music, I may have enjoyed this much more. There is a great love story or 2 going on, but the way the film is edited causes confusion and chaos for the viewer. I can recommend that you see this film, but don’t expect to love it, especially if you’re a Beatles purist.

3 out of 5 stars

Lady and the Tramp

Posted in Animation, Classics, Disney, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

One Christmas, Jim Dear gives his wife Darling a cocker spaniel puppy that they name Lady. Though initially planning that Lady would sleep in a basket in the kitchen, she ends up sleeping on the bed with the couple. When she is six months old, she receives a collar and license. Lady goes to show off her badge of maturity to her canine friends Jock, a Scottish terrier and Trusty, a Bloodhound. Across town, a stray mutt, referred to as the Tramp by other characters, visits an Italian restaurant where he gets a large bone from the owner for his breakfast. He also spots his fellow strays Peg (a former Dog and Pony Showdog) Pekingese and Bull, a Bulldog, locked up in a dog catcher’s wagon and sets them free, leading the dogcatcher away in a decoy chase.

Later, Lady is saddened after Jim Dear calls her “THAT Dog”, and after another occasion when Darling swats her for pulling on the yarn she was using to knit. When she tells Jock and Trusty about these events, and how Jim Dear is always asking about Darling’s “condition” they explain to her that Darling is expecting a baby. While her friends continue to explain what a baby is, Tramp wanders into the yard. He interrupts, saying that humans are nothing but trouble and warns her that when the baby comes she’ll lose her comfortable place in the home. Jock and Trusty take a dislike to the stray immediately and order him out of the yard.

The baby arrives and Lady goes to the nursery to finally get a look. Lady realizes the baby is harmless, and assigns herself as its protector. Soon after, Jim Dear and Darling decide to go on a trip together, leaving Aunt Sarah to look after the baby and the house. Aunt Sarah brings her two Siamese cats, Si and Am. While Aunt Sarah is busy with the baby, the two cats begin causing mischief. Lady barks at and chases them, and when Aunt Sarah comes down to investigate the noise, the two cats pretend to be hurt.

Aunt Sarah takes her to a pet shop and has her muzzled. Terrified, Lady escapes. A pack of vicious street dogs chase her, but Tramp hears the barking and rescues her. Seeing the muzzle, he takes her to the zoo where they convince a beaver to remove it. With Lady free from it, the two dogs go around town and Tramp tells her about his life, and all the “homes” and names he has.

At dinnertime Tramp takes Lady to his favorite Italian place, Tony’s, where Tony and Joe prepare the couple a dinner of spaghetti and meatballs and serenade the couple. As they eat, the dogs inadvertently share a kiss when they attempt to eat the same piece of spaghetti. After dinner, they go for a walk through the park and eventually fall asleep. In the morning, Tramp asks Lady to stay with him, but she feels she must watch over the baby so he agrees to take her home. On the way, he convinces her to stop to chase some chickens, but while they are escaping, the dogcatcher catches Lady. At the pound, Lady is teased a bit by the rougher strays for being high bred, but Peg (who has been caught again), tells them to stop. The other dogs admire Lady’s license, as it is a “ticket to freedom” from the pound. Soon the dogs reveal Tramp’s many girlfriends and how he is unwilling to ever settle down. They also predict that if Tramp ever does settle down, he’ll grow careless and likely be caught and put to sleep. The talk upsets Lady, but she is soon taken home.

Aunt Sarah chains her to a doghouse in the back yard, much to her shame. Jock and Trusty visit to try to comfort her, and even propose marriage so she could move to one of their homes. Lady appreciates their gesture but gently turns them down.

Tramp comes to visit and tries to apologize for her being caught. When he calls her a “cute little trick” thunder starts to rumble as Lady confronts him about all of his other girls, after which Tramp sadly leaves. Moments later, Lady sees a rat sneaking into the house. She barks frantically, but Aunt Sarah yells at her to be quiet. Tramp hears her and runs back to help. Following Lady’s directions, he gets into the house and finds the rat in the nursery and kills it, overturning the baby’s crib in the process. Lady breaks her chain to follow him into the house. Aunt Sarah runs in, and seeing the overturned crib, thinks Tramp attacked the baby. She pushes him into a closet and Lady into the basement, then calls the pound to take Tramp away.

As the dogcatcher is taking him away, Jim Dear and Darling arrive and Lady shows them the dead rat. Jock and Trusty, having overheard everything, chase after the dogcatcher’s wagon. Jock is convinced Trusty has long since lost his sense of smell, but the old bloodhound is able to find the wagon. They bark at the horses to make it stop, causing it to fall. Jim Dear and Lady are not far behind and Lady is happily reunited with Tramp before they discover that the wagon fell on Trusty.

Christmas arrives and Tramp now has his own collar and license and has been adopted by Jim Dear and Darling. She and Tramp have a litter of four puppies. Jock and Trusty come to see the family and Tramp’s new collar, with Trusty carefully walking on his injured leg.

REVIEW:

Lady and the Tramp may best be known for the iconic spaghetti scene, but when you sit down and watch the entire film, you’ll be privy to a vintage, quality, Disney film.

Although this isn’t a musical, there a few songs that move the story along. The memorable “Siamese Cat Song” is a filled with all sort of site gags as the Siamese cats tease and taunt Lady. In a different vein, the lovely “Bella Notte” sets a romantic mood for Tramp and Lady’s date, as well as reserves a place in history as one of the most beautiful Disney songs.

The Disney animators outdid themselves wih Lady. For a dog, she’s a total cutie. They kept her dog mannerisms, while mixing in some human emotions. Tramp, Jock, and Trusty don’t have the same detail as Lady, though. She just glows compared to the other dogs. Now that I think about it, the only other dog that comes close to her is the only other female dog in the film, Peg. Maybe it’s a she-thing.

Jock and Trusty are excellent supporting characters, especially since they’re the ones that save the day. I do kind of with they would have received more screentime, though.

Tramp’s confrontation with the rat is a nice climax, but I can’t help but wonder where were the Siamese cats during all this? They seemed to have disappeared after their scene with Lady.

This is another prime example of early Disney feature film animation and the superior quality that the company had in those days. The animation, character development, and story all knock any and everything that they have released recently out of the park. Lady and the Tramp is definitely worth a viewing, especially if you’re lookingfor a good wholesome or family movie.

4 out of 5 stars