Archive for May, 2009

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 31, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The film opens in the future San Dimas, California, with Rufus (George Carlin) preparing to use a time machine disguised as a phone booth to travel back to 1988 to make sure that Bill S. Preston, Esq. (Alex Winter) and Ted “Theodore” Logan (Keanu Reeves) remain together as the band “Wyld Stallyns”, as their music is the core of the future’s Utopian society. Rufus finds that Bill and Ted are on the verge of failing their high school history class, and should Ted fail, his father, police captain Logan (Hal Langdon) will ship him off to an Alaskan military academy, effectively ending the pair’s dreams of forming a band. As the two try to write a history report by asking customers at a local Circle K, Rufus introduces himself to them. Though Bill and Ted are skeptical of Rufus’ claims, they are convinced when future versions of themselves land nearby and explain the situation to them. Rufus shows Bill and Ted how the time machine works by taking them back to see Napoleon Bonaparte (Terry Camilleri) preparing for battle. Rufus returns to the present and leaves the two with the time machine; after Rufus leaves, they discover that Napoleon was dragged with them back to the present, and get an idea: to pass their history exam, they will go back in time and kidnap other historical figures and have them explain what they think of the San Dimas of the present. Bill and Ted leave Napoleon with Ted’s younger brother Deacon while they travel back to the past.

Bill and Ted first collect Billy the Kid (Dan Shor) and Socrates (Tony Steedman) (whom they refer to as /ˈsoʊkre/“So-Crates”), who are both confused but eager to help the pair. When they travel to medieval Europe, they become smitten with Princesses Elizabeth (Kimberley Kates) and Joanna (Diane Franklin), but fall into trouble with their father the King; they manage to escape with the help of Billy and Socrates and continue traveling through time. Soon, they have collected Sigmund Freud (Rod Loomis), Ludwig van Beethoven (Clifford David), Genghis Khan (Al Leong), Joan of Arc (Jane Wiedlin), and Abraham Lincoln (Robert V. Barron). The passengers encounter brief technical difficulties, and when attempting to return to the present, end up returning on the previous day outside the Circle K with Rufus introducing himself to their past selves. Bill and Ted recount their experience to their past selves, and learn how to properly return to the present from Rufus in order to give their history report on time.

While trying to get the other historical figures accustomed to life in San Dimas by dropping them off at the local shopping mall, Ted learns that Deacon abandoned Napoleon at a bowling alley the night before. Bill and Ted go off to search for him, finding him enjoying himself at a local water park, “Waterloo”. When they return to the mall, they find the other historical figures have been arrested by Ted’s father due to the chaos they caused. The two try to figure out how to rescue them when they realize they can use the time machine to go back in time and plant elements, such as the cell keys, at the police station for their escape plan. They successfully free the historical figures and make it to the school on time for their report. The report is an outstanding success, and the two pass their course.

In the closure of the film, Rufus joins Bill and Ted as they practice and congratulates them on their report. Rufus brings in Princesses Elizabeth and Joanna, who he rescued from their father, and explains that he’s introduced them to the modern century, and that they too are destined to be part of Wyld Stallyns. As the four begin to play a cacophony of music, Rufus admits that “they do get better”. During the shot of Rufus’ hands playing his guitar solo, the actual hands are those of Eddie Van Halen.

REVIEW:

Time travel has always ben a faschinating sucject for Hollywoon to tackle. Time machines have taken on a myriad of shapes and desgins, inclujing a toilet tye systen, and of course, who can forget the DeLorean? Upon their initial release, people thought they were crazy, but time has shut them up.

This is one of those feel good buddy movies with a couple of slacker, stoner guys that desperately need to get a good grade on their final report for history or else Ted will get shipped off to boot camp and they both will flunk the class. Unlike in other buddy pictures where they main characters end up having somoe sort of big fight that tears them apart, Bill & Ted stay devoted to each other throughout the whole film.

Who would have ever guessed that this film would laucnh the career of one Keanu Reeves? Strangely enough, he does his best job of acting here.

Alex Winter seemed to have disappeared off the face of the earth, but I’m sure he gets a nice little royalty check for being in this film. Still, he and TEd continute to terrorize San Diman with their overly bad air guitars.

As many time as I’ve seen this picture, it wasn’t until recently that it hit me about Rufus being George Carlin. He’s so young here, that he’s almsot unrecognizable. Not to mention, he doesn’t have his trademark gravelly voice.

The cast of characters they assemble for their final report is quite eclectic, as demonstrated when they all go berserk at the mall. It makes one ownder who they would bring back. I didn’t quite get the whole broken antenna thing. They didn’t really go anywhere with that plot device, and that may very well have been their intention, I just found it rather off.

Bill & Ted is meant to be enjoyed by anyone who has spent the night studying for a final or writing a paper and having no luck.  This happens to the best f us, and more often that not, we need a little bit of a break now and then. So sit back, relax, and enjoy!

5 out of 5 stars

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 31, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Ten years have passed since the invasion of Naboo, and the Galactic Republic is experiencing a crisis. Former Jedi Master Count Dooku has organized a Separatist movement against the Republic, making it difficult for the Jedi to maintain the peace. The Republic contemplates creating an army to assist the Jedi, prompting Senator Padmé Amidala, former Queen of Naboo, to return to Coruscant to vote on the matter. Upon her arrival, she narrowly escapes an assassination attempt. Shaken by the close call, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine assigns Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi and his apprentice Anakin Skywalker to protect her. That night, another attempt on the Senator’s life is made, though Obi-Wan and Anakin foil the plot and subdue the assassin, who is permanently silenced by her mysterious employer when the Jedi force her to reveal vital information. Returning to the Jedi Temple, Obi-Wan is assigned to investigate the identity of the assassin’s killer, while Anakin is assigned to escort and accompany Senator Amidala to her homeplanet of Naboo. Anakin, who has grown infatuated with Padmé, relishes the opportunity to spend time with her, though Padmé resists her feelings toward him, as that would go against the moral codes of their careers as a Jedi and a senator, respectively.

Obi-Wan’s investigation leads him to the remote planet of Kamino, where he discovers that an army of clones is being secretly produced for the Republic. Obi-Wan deduces the clones’ template, a bounty hunter named Jango Fett, is the killer he’s looking for. After unsuccessfully trying to capture him, Obi-Wan tracks him down to the planet Geonosis. Anakin, meanwhile, has grown troubled with recurring nightmares about his mother, whom he had left behind on Tatooine when he set off to become a Jedi, in grave danger. In defiance of his orders to remain on Naboo, Anakin convinces Padmé to accompany him to Tatooine to save his mother. There he finds her abducted and beaten by Tusken Raiders, and she dies in his arms. Anakin succumbs to his grief and rage, slaughtering the entire Tusken community.

On Geonosis, Obi-Wan learns it was Nute Gunray who authorized the assassination attempt on Senator Amidala, and that the Separatists are in development of a new droid army. Obi-Wan relays this information via hologram to Anakin, who transmits it to the Jedi Council, though Obi-Wan is captured mid-transmission. While Anakin and Padmé head to Geonosis to rescue Obi-Wan, Chancellor Palpatine is granted emergency powers to organize the clone army and send them into battle. Shortly after arriving on Geonosis, Anakin and Padmé are captured and sentenced to death along with Obi-Wan. Preparing for what could be their final moments, Padmé finally reveals her feelings for Anakin. The three are pitted against savage beasts, though they manage to hold their own before Jedi Master Mace Windu arrives with a team of Jedi to assist them, engaging and decapitating Jango Fett in the brief battle. After a heated struggle, Jedi Master Yoda arrives with the clone army and collects the surviving Jedi.

As a large battle erupts between the Republic’s clone army and the Separatist’s droid forces, Count Dooku attempts to escape. Obi-Wan and Anakin corner him in a hangar and engage him in a lightsaber duel, but he outmatches and defeats them with his mastery of the dark side of the Force, cutting off Anakin’s arm in the process. Yoda engages Dooku in a fierce duel, though Dooku manages to escape once more, taking the plans for a new “ultimate weapon” to his Sith master on Coruscant. The Jedi are now uncertain of what will become of the Republic, now that the Clone Wars have begun. Chancellor Palpatine oversees the launching of massive clone trooper forces. Meanwhile, Anakin, with a new cybernetic arm, secretly marries Padmé on Naboo, with C-3PO and R2-D2 as witnesses.

REVIEW:

I’ve noticed that a trend in trilogies is for the second film to be the best of the 3. Attack of the Clonesfits that stereotype perfectly.

As good as Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menacewas, it was rooted more in drama, rather than action. Having said that, critics of the first film said there was no romance. To this day, I don’t understand why there just needed to be a romance, but they got their wish with this film as Anakin and Padme share a forbidden love. Aside from the love story, we get lots more action and more wondrous, vintage Star Wars creatures and locales, such as Kamino, a watery planet inhabited by tall, white creatures with very long necks (and 6 pack abs).

Critics have panned the acting in this film, especially Hayden Christensen, who plays Anakin. I find it hard to disagree with them. Christensen, though, is like Keanu Reeves and Ryan Philippe, devoid of emotion and depth. Having seen Hayden in other works outside of these films, I know that it his talent that is lacking, and not the character or script. Still, he doesn’t totally suck in the role. After all, Anakin is slowly but surely turning to the dark side. The one spark of emotion we get is in his most emotional scene following the death of his mother, and even that is barely a tilt one way or another from normal.

Natalie Portman returns as Padme Amidala, who is now a Senator, rather than queen. It must be some kind of weird custom on Naboo for the women to have those weird hairdos, because her hair, although tones down from the first film, is still constantly being mutated into weird shapes. She obviously has some real acting talent, and as the film goes on, we start to feel as if she’s human and not a droid like R2-D2 and C-3PO. It seems as if she was uncomfortable in the early scenes, but as she gained confidence with her character, her acting gets better. This could also have something to do, or not, with her wardrobe that shows her bare midriff.

Ewan McGregor comes into this film with a full beard as an attempt to put the fans more in the mind of Alec Guiness’ Obi-Wan. I’d say this was a mistake, but it actually makes him look older and more believable than he was in the first film.

The highlight of the film for me, has to be the lightsaber/force battle between Yoda and Count Dooku. Longtime Star Wars fans know Yoda best as a feeble old muppet creature who is very wise. This battle with Dooku, albeit short, is impressive, because we really get to see that he can use the skills he teaches young Jedi. Also, we get to see the other Jedi knights in action, including Mace Windu.

Yoda has a line in Return of the Jedi, I believe that says, “action, adventure…a jedi craves not these things.” Well, if you’re watching this film, then you crave action, adventure, a little romance and a little comedy. That’s a nice little mixture, isn’t it? No wonder this is the best of the prequel trilogy.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Sleeping Beauty

Posted in Animation, Classics, Disney, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on May 31, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Set in a fairy-tale world, the newborn Princess Aurora is named after the Roman goddess of the dawn because she fills the lives of her mother and father, King Stefan and Queen Leah, with sunshine. While still an infant, she is betrothed to the also-young Prince Phillip, son of King Hubert. At her christening, the good fairies Flora (dressed in red/pink), Fauna (in green), and Merryweather (in blue) arrive to bless her. Flora gives her the gift of beauty while Fauna gives her the gift of song. But before Merryweather could give her blessing, Maleficent appears on the scene, expressing disappointment in not being invited to Aurora’s christening ceremony and curses the princess to die when she touches a spinning wheel’s spindle before the sun sets on her sixteenth birthday. Fortunately, Merryweather’s blessing weakens the curse so that instead of death, Aurora, would fall into a deep sleep until she is awakened by true love’s kiss. Though King Stefan decreed all spinning wheels in the kingdom burned, the three good fairies know Maleficent couldn’t be stopped that easily and sneak Aurora away with them to a woodland cottage until her sixteen birthday lapses, passing themselves off as her aunts and swearing off magic to conceal themselves.

Years later, Aurora, renamed Briar-Rose, had grown into a gorgeous young woman with the blessings that Flora and Fauna bestowed to her. She does not care about her looks despite being very beautiful but she awaits love, as she is a very romantic girl. By that time, Maleficent is vexed at her minions’ incompetence and sends her raven to look for Aurora. On the day of her sixteenth birthday, the fairies attempt to make Rose a gown and a cake. When their attempts end in disaster they decide to use their wands, resulting with an argument by Flora and Merryweather over the color of the gown – pink or blue? – that catches Raven’s attention. Meanwhile, Aurora gathers berries while singing to her animal friends; this attracts the attention of Prince Phillip, now a handsome young man, as he is out riding his horse in the woods. When they meet, they instantly fall in love. Realizing that she has to return home, Aurora flees from Phillip without ever learning his name. Despite promising to meet him again, the fairies reveal the truth of her birth to her and take her to her parents and her betrothed’s family.

Unfortunately, Maleficent uses her magic to lure Aurora away from her boudoir up a tower of her palace, where a spinning wheel awaits her. Fascinated by the wheel with Maleficent’s will enforcing it, Aurora touches the spindle, pricking her finger and completing the curse. The good fairies place Aurora on a bed with a red rose in her hand, and place all in the kingdom in a deep sleep until the spell is broken as King Hubert tries to tell Stefan of his son being in love with a peasant-girl. At that time, Prince Phillip arrives at the cottage, but is captured, bound and gagged by Maleficent’s minions and taken to her lair, “The Forbidden Mountain”, to prevent him from kissing Aurora until he is an old man. However, the fairies sneak into Maleficent’s stronghold and free the prince. Armed with the magical Sword of Truth and The Shield of Virtue, Phillip braves all obstacles to reach the palace prior to battling Maleficent when the sorceress turns herself into a gigantic Dark Fire-Breathing Dragon. The sword, blessed by the fairies’ magic, is plunged into the dragon’s heart, causing the evil sorceress to fall to her death from a cliff. Phillip climbs to Aurora’s chamber, and removes the curse with a kiss. As the film ends, the prince and princess both happily learn that their betrothed and their beloved are one and the same. They arrive at the ballroom, where Aurora is happily re-united with her parents, and she and Prince Phillip dance a waltz. However, they are unaware of the fact that Merryweather and Flora have resumed their disagreement over the color of her dress and that the color changes from blue to pink. As the book closes, Aurora’s gown turns back to pink and stays pink.

REVIEW:

Sleeping Beauty was the last fairy tale Walt Disney worked on before his death. Aurora/Briar Rose may very well be the most popular Disney princess behind Snow White. Too bad they can’t decide whether her dress should be blue or pink.

Let’s face the facts, a typical boy is not going to necessarily be interested in this film, except for the fight at the end. It is loaded with girly, “mushy” stuff, but that’s what makes this such an endearing picture.

The love story between Aurora and Phillip is really touching, culminating with the “love’s first kiss.”

The faeries bring in some much needed comic relief, and  you can’t help but enjoy the arguments between Flora and Merryweather about what color Sleeping Beauty’s dress should be, pink or blue. You’ll notice that this disagreement happens right up until the book closes.

Maleficent was voted the most evil Disney villain of all time. The more I watch this film, the more I see how she earned that title, (even though I voted for Jafar). She is a mixture of class, black magic, and twisted logic…a dangerous combination.

The animation and music throught this film are beyong astounding. As with most films from this era, you can tell the time that went into every detail of these hand drawn cells. The Tchaikovsky inspired score is the icing on the cake and really sets the mood for the entire film.

You’d be hard pressed to find a classic Disney film that isn’t of superior quality. Sleeping Beauty, from an artistic standpoint, may only be surpassed by Fantasiain that department, which says alot about the art and animation. As I said before, boys won’t appreciate this as much as little girls will, but the whole family can sit and enjoy this Disney classic time and time again.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Soul Men

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 30, 2009 by Mystery Man

 

PLOT:

Two former backup soul singers, Louis (Samuel L. Jackson) and Floyd (Bernie Mac) who have not spoken to each other in 20 years reluctantly agree to travel across the country together to a reunion concert to honor their recently deceased lead singer (John Legend). Cleo (Sharon Leal), a beautiful young woman in an abusive relationship, who is believed to be Floyd’s daughter accompanies them as a new singer. A few problems come their way involving Cleo’s wanna-be gangsta rapper boyfriend (Affion Crockett), Floyd’s fling with a white woman (Jennifer Coolidge) and a lot more leading up to their big performance at the Apollo Theater, and the two Soul Men reform a bond that they lost 20 years ago.

REVIEW:

With a funky soul soundtrack and one of the funniest men to ever take up comedy in Bernie Mac, Soul Men delivers on all levels. I can’t remember when I laughed so hard.

They always say you should go out with a bang. If that’s true, then Bernie Mac surely did that. His star has never shone half as bright as it does here. Strangely enough, he’s playing the straight man to Samuel L. Jackson.

Samuel L. Jackson is back to his normal, loud, wisecracking self here. The contrast with between his and Bernie Mac’s characters is really the focal and driving point of the film.

Sharon Leal is a total cutie pie, even though she doesn’t really get to show it off here. As she proved in Dreamgirls, though, she can really sing. Her acting isn’t half bad, either.

I didn’t really get the casting of John Legend as Marcus Hooks. To me, if you’re going to cast a big name musician, then you need to use him, but Legend has no lines, nor does he sing. What is the point? They could have just as easily pulled someone off the street for his role, no offense to John.

Although this film is quite the laugh riot through and through, it does take a dramatic, and unnecessary turn in an attempt to insert some dram into the comedy. I hate it when comedies do that.It slows things down.

As the credits roll, we get a montage of Bernie Mac and a little bit of Isacca HAyes. Both men died before this film was released. Ironically, there was a scene when they talked about dying, I believe. It is truly a great loss to not have these two around anymore.

Critics panned this film for no reason, but as we are all aware, they like to do that for films that aren’t all artsy fartsy or dark and moody. This is a light-hearted, feel good film filled with nothing but humor and good music (if you can get past Samuel L. Jackson’s singing). Why not sit back and have a few laughs?

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Darkman

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , on May 30, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Scientist Peyton Westlake(Neeson) is developing a new type of synthetic skin to aid burn victims. He is frustrated with a flaw in the "skin", which causes it to rapidly disintegrateafter being exposed to light for 99 minutes; however, it remains intact in darkness. Despitehis devotion to the project, he cannot get past this limitation.

Westlake’s girlfriend, attorney Julie Hastings (McDormand), comes upon an incriminating document proving that corrupt developer Louis Strack Jr. (Friels) and mobster Robert G. Durant (Drake) have been giving bribes to members of the zoning commission. In search of the document, Durant and his minions attack and injure Westlake, retrieve the document, then blow up his lab. The blast throws Westlakeclear of the lab; he survives but is hideously burned. He is brought to a hospital and subjected to a radical treatment in which the nerves to the pain centers of his brain are destroyed. Removing this sensory input gives him increased strength due to adrenal overload and keeps his injuries from incapacitating him, but it also destabilizes his moods and mental state.

Westlake escapes the hospital and sets out to get revenge on Strack and Durant. He also seeks to re-establish his relationship with Hastings. To hide his scarring and blend into crowds, Westlakerebuilds enough of his equipment to make his synthetic skin, but is still unable to overcome the 99-minutewindow of integrity. Thus, he can only appear briefly in public as himself (or later as others, whose features he is able to duplicate) in daylight, and otherwise wears bandages and a trenchcoat in his identity as Darkman. He is able to make masks in advance and store them for long periods by keeping them from light sources. He takes the opportunity to observe important people, such as his enemies, so he can masquerade as them.

Westlake eventually succeeds in destroying his enemies but is unable to return to his old life and thus continues his existence as Darkman. Running away from Julie as they leave an elevator, Westlake is seen from behind putting on a mask which, as seen in the final shot of the movie, is the face of Bruce Campbell.

REVIEW:

In the early ’90s and late 80s, superhero movies were slightly less commonplace than they are today. Pictures such as Batman, Dick Tracy, and this one paved the way for the superhero films of today.

Darkman is a tragic superhero in the mold of Batman and The Shadow with a hint of The Phantom of the Opera. His origin is your typical sad story. The handsome scientist is working on something, his life is going perfectly, then all of a sudden tragedy strikes as his lab is destroyed and he is tragically disfigured. Now, while his story may seem a bit cliche, it is far from that. This is a very intriguing and interesting, complex character, brilliantly portrayed by Liam Neeson.

Neeson takes Peyton Westlake from the pages of Sam Raimi’s screenplay and turns him into a character that could rival Bruce Wayne/Batman in the comics and on-screen. Before the accident, he is the devoted boyfriend and brilliant scientist. Afterwards, he keeps his brilliant intellect, but his dashing looks are mangled, and due to a questionable procedure done by the hospital, he can feel no pain which causes him to be mentally unstable. Combine this with the desire to return to his old life, and the inner conflict could change a man, and as Peyton says at the end of the film, it does.

Frances McDormandwas actually quite fetching in her younger days. Still, it is hard for me ot picture her in the damsel in distress role, especially since she plays a lawyer. Then again, the audience initially feels sorry for her for losing her boyfriend, then come to find out she’s been dating the enemy, even after Peyton is back (though they don’t go into all that, except for a brief mentioning).

There are those that just have this look of a villain. Larry Drake happens to be one of those men. Robert G. Durant is one of those extremely twisted, sick, and sadistic crime bosses that gets his jollies from the pain of others. I mean, for goodness sakes, the man has a collection of fingers! Mos impressive about him for me was the way that he didn’t show any emotion or movement in the opening scenes. It was like he was a Terminator.

The effects in this film are reminiscent of the time in which it was released. Though, Peyton perfects the skin grafting, or so we are led to believe, it is never said  why it only work for 99 minutes during the day and doesn’t seem to have any limits in the dark. Not to mention, the fact that the hospital just lets him go and doesn’t start looking for him. It would just make more sense that way, at least to me.

Sam Raimi has done a good job of creating an original superhero, especially considering how he wasn’t able to secure the rights to The Shadow or Batman.Darkman combines action, adventure, drama, a bit of comedy, and a smidgen of horror. Most people will like this film. It’s very entertaining. It’s such a shame the sequels aren’t as good.

4 out of 5 stars

1941

Posted in Action/Adventure, Comedy, Movie Reviews, Spoofs & Satire with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 30, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Susan Backlinie, who played the first victim in Spielberg’s Jaws, plays a character who goes for a midnight swim, alone and naked. But instead of a shark, a Japanese submarine surfaces under her. She holds on to the periscope as it rises. A Japanese crew member looks up at the naked girl clinging to the submarine, and yells: “Hollywood! Hollywood!” At this point, the submarine crew realizes they have arrived where they intended to be, Hollywood, and the vessel submerges once again while the girl swims to safety. The Japanese submarine crew, led by Commander Mitamuru (Toshiro Mifune in a near-parody of other, more serious roles as Japanese officers in American films) are joined by a hard-line German naval captain (Christopher Lee), and have crossed the Pacific Ocean to destroy something “honorable.”

Back on land, dishwasher Wally Stephens (Bobby Di Cicco) makes plans to enter a dance contest with Betty Douglas (Dianne Kay), against her father’s wishes. Tank crew Sgt. Frank Tree (Dan Aykroyd), Private Foley (John Candy) and Corporal Sitarski (Treat Williams) are also at Wally’s restaurant.

Meanwhile, Captain Wild Bill Kelso (John Belushi) lands his Curtiss P-40 fighter to refuel but accidentally blows up the gasoline station.

Just days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, in Los Angeles, Major General Joseph Stilwell (Robert Stack) attempts to bring order, but Colonel Mad Man Maddox (Warren Oates), the General’s new secretary Donna Stratten (Nancy Allen) and the General’s assistant Captain Loomis Birkhead (Tim Matheson) all have other ideas.

At the Douglas family home on the coast, Wally is confronted by Mr. Douglas (Ned Beatty) and his wife Joan (Lorraine Gary), still angry that he previously destroyed their car. Soon after, the tank crew arrive to deliver a large gun; Corporal Sitarski spots Betty.

The Japanese submarine becomes lost trying to find Los Angeles when the ship’s compass is broken. A landing party captures a local timber merchant, Hollis Wood (Slim Pickens); on board the sub, they see he has a small Cracker Jack compass that he swallows. Wood escapes, while in Los Angeles, Major General Stilwell goes to see the feature film Dumbo. Captain Birkhead and Donna Stratten decide to go the local airfield where Colonel Madman Maddox has both aircraft and a belief the Japanese are about to attack.

At the USO dance, Sitarski and Betty are inside as Wally sneaks in with a stolen Shore Patrol’s uniform, steals Betty away but ignites a massive brawl involving all the servicemen. Sgt Tree arrives in his tank just as Los Angeles goes to Red Alert with an unknown aircraft in the air. Ward Douglas spots the Japanese submarine lurking near his home. As Birkhead and Stratten fly over Los Angeles in the back of a purloined aircraft, civil defense batteries blast away. Chaos continues as Wild Bill joins the fight and crashes.

Wally commanders Sgt Tree’s tank, Wild Bill follows on motorbike, crashing through a paint factory and then a turpentine factory. Meanwhile Ward Douglas begins firing at the Japanese submarine, destroying his house in the process. The submarine returns fire (Mitamuru: “Fire at that industrial structure!”), hitting an amusement park Ferris wheel which careens into the ocean. The tank sinks when the pier collapses as Wild Bill drives his motorbike into the ocean and swims to the submarine, where he is captured by the Japanese, who, believing their honorable mission accomplished, now return home. The German captain is thrown overboard by the Japanese and is later captured—the only U.S. “victory” of the movie.

The following morning, General Stilwell arrives at the Douglas home where Ward Douglas goes to hang a Christmas wreath, only to accidentally push his damaged home into the Pacific Ocean. The movie ends with all the characters in front of the foundations of the destroyed home.

REVIEW:

I remember playing the arcade game 1941 and seeing this on the shelves of the video rental store when I was young, thinking they were the same. Finally, I get the chance to check this film out. I’ll admit that I didn’t think it was a comedy, but was pleasantly surprised when I found out it was.

Steven Spielberg is not known for being a comedy director. That being said, this is an excellent comedic film. The comedy is in the dialogue and a few  sight gags, but that formula works for this film and with this cast.

John Williams provides another masterpiece for a score, highlighted by the piece “Swing, Swing, Swing.” I’m not sure there is another composer that could have handled the task of putting spic music to a screwball comedy.

At a little under 2 1/2 hours, one would think this film would drag on a bit long, and it does lag in parts, but the last hour is non-stop action. I will admit, though, that if you don’t pay attention throughout the entire film you may get lost.

The cast really sell their indiviual roles. The script and story are well executed, except for the whole Japaneese submarine with German captain thing.

This film is not meant to be a documentary biopic, like Saving Private Ryan, Pearl Harbor, or any of those other war movies. Spielberg chose to tell things from a lighthearted point of view, but the events of the film are loosely based in fact. I seriously hope that the military wasn’t as incompetent and paranoid s they appear in this picture back then.

If I have any real criticism of this film, its that they spend too much time developing Wally’s character, that the rest of the cast gets short changed a bit, especially Jim Belushi’s Wild Bill Kelso. When we first meet Wally, it seems as if he’s going to become the hero of the picture, but instead he just ends up being a one of those guys who ends up in the right place at the right time in order to lend a hand.

As far as war movies go, this isn’t the greatest, but it is one of the most entertaining. As a fan of this era and its music, I’m in love with the soundtrack. There are few things not to like about this film for those of you that don’t appreciate anything that isn’t modern and dark, but for the rest of us open minded people, sit back and take in all the old school goodness.

4 out of 5 stars

The Spiderwick Chronicles

Posted in Action/Adventure, Family, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 27, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Recently divorced Mrs. Grace (Mary-Louise Parker) moves into the Spiderwick Estate with her children when it is given to her by her elderly aunt Lucinda (Joan Plowright), though identical twins Jared and Simon (Freddie Highmore) and their older sister Mallory (Sarah Bolger) do not want to move from the city. When Jared uncovers a dumbwaiter system behind a wall, Jared finds a monogrammed key and discovers the study of the late owner of the estate, Arthur Spiderwick (David Strathairn). Jared uses the key to open a chest. In it, he finds Spiderwick’s field guide to faeries; although an attached note warns him not to read it, he does so anyway.

Soon after, Jared meets a brownie named Thimbletack (Martin Short), who explains that magical creatures are normally invisible, but can reveal themselves at will. He tells Jared about a protective circle that Arthur Spiderwick placed around the house and gives him a stone with a hole through which he can see faeries.

However, a shape-shifting ogre named Mulgarath (Nick Nolte) wants the field guide for himself so he can rule over all faerie-kind. He sends his goblins led by Redcap the Pompous Goblin General, to obtain it, and they kidnap Simon, mistaking him for Jared. Meanwhile, Jared meets Hogsqueal (Seth Rogen), a hobgoblin and bitter enemy of Mulgarath. Hogsqueal gives Jared the ability to see faeries without the aid of the stone. Mulgarath lets Simon go and berates Redcap for failing his master. But soon Jared, who is hiding, is spotted by the goblins. Together, the twins flee to the house, managing to escape only with Mallory’s help.

The children decide to visit their great-aunt Lucinda, now in a psychiatric hospital, for advice. While Simon distracts the goblins, Mallory and Jared manage to reach a tunnel under the estate. Lucinda tells them that they need to find Arthur Spiderwickand have him destroy the book; however, Arthur is being held captive by Sylphs, a type of faerie. Suddenly, Mulgarath’sgoblins attack them and steal several pages from the book before they are driven off. Meanwhile in the woods, Mulgarathberates Redcap violently for not bringing all of the book, but he is pleased by having a page that allows Mulgarth to break the protective circle by moonrise. Mulgarath and Redcap prepare the potion for the upcoming night. Meanwhile on the children’s return, Hogsqueal warns them that one of the stolen pages will allow Mulgarath to destroy the protective circle when the moon rises.

Jared and Simon, along with Mallory use the book to summon Arthur Spiderwick’s pet, a griffin, which takes them to the realm of the Sylphs. There they meet Arthur, who has not aged but is also unaware of the time he has spent there. After returning home again, Jared, Simon, Mallory, and Helen arm themselves with steel knives and home-made bombs prepared by Simon. When they are forced into the kitchen, they place all of their bombs into the oven, detonating them and killing all of the goblins and Redcap.

Mr. Grace (Andrew McCarthy) enters the house and tells Jared that he came to apologize. Jared, realizing that it is not his father, stabs him in the stomach, revealing him to be Mulgarathin disguise. Jared escapes with the book through the dumbwaiter while Mulgarathgives pursuit. On the roof, Jared throws the book onto the lawn; as Mulgarath transforms into a raven to catch it, he is snatched and eaten by Hogsqueal.

The Graces bring Lucinda back to the house, and the Sylphs appear, bringing Arthur. He cannot remain outside of the faerie realm, but Lucinda asks to be taken with him instead; the Sylphs transform her back into her six-year-old self and spirit the two away.

REVIEW:

I’ve heard alot of people that have seen this fim refer to it as “what Bridge to Terabithia should have been.” I can’t say that I disagree with that statement, but it must be remembered that they are two different films.

Whereas Terabithina is more drama driven, Spiderwick is more about action and fantastical cretures. Each of these creatures seems to be taken from your generic fantasy genre, but that doesn’t make them any less importan to the story.

Freddie Highmore does double duty as the twins Jared and Simon. While he is coming into his own as an actor, I think they could have found set of real twin to play these roles, or at least someone that could pass for his brother. I just didn’t believe he was two different characters. It was like a clone that was missing part of his personality. I hate to say that about the kid, but its true.

Nick Nolte appears in this film for 5 minutes as the human form of the ogre Malgrath. As much as I hate to say this, that may have been the best scene Nolte had. For the rest of the film, he is screaming for the goblins to bring him the book, sounding like a broken record.

Mary-Louise Parker is quite annoying as the mother. She, like the typical mother in these type of films, is in the middle of her own crisis and refuses to listen to her kids, until the goblins attack her car.

Matin Short and Seth Rogen lend their voices to Thumbletack and Hogsqueal respectively. Their unique voices work extremely well with the eccentric characters they play, especially Short.

The CGI in this film is ok, but I have a couple of comments about it. First, I think these creatures would have looked better had they have been stop motion a la Ray Harryhausen. Second, the griffin seemed to be a recycled graphics from on of the Harry Pottermovies, I forgot which one right this second. They just changed his color and made some slight detail alterations.

The weakest part of this film happens to be the characters. Non of them are developed enough to make the audience feel for them, although the film seems to center around Jared, he’s just not relatable. All this is not to mention the unnecessary family problems regarding the dad that was brought in. I have no issue with a little background on the characters and all, but it just seemed out of place and didn’tt do anything for the story, but slow it down when it was firing.

I found it a little hilarious that the way to destroy the goblins was more less to use the ingredients for spaghetti sauce, tomato sauce, salt, and vinegar. It really cracked me up when they lit the stove and all the sauce flew out onto the goblins making it look like a horror scene. That was classic!

This is a pretty solid outing in the family friendly fantasy category. There isn’t much that those that are more concerned with finding every little offensive thing rather that enjoying an entertaining film will find, short of one scene where Jared says “what the hell?”. I didn’t love this film, but at the same I didn’t hate it. For me, this may be one of those that I need to see a couple of time to form a full opinion on, but in the meantime, I don’ see why anyone wouldn’t want to give it the chance, unless you’re one of those that sees this is a “kid’s movie” and don’t think any of those are worth watching. For the rest of us, we can sit back and enjoy.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Johnny Dangerously

Posted in Action/Adventure, Comedy, Movie Reviews, Spoofs & Satire with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 27, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

A pet shop owner catches a young boy shoplifting a puppy. To discourage the kid from a life of crime, the owner tells a story . . .

It is 1910. Young Johnny Kelly is a poor but honest newsboy in New York City. Johnny beats up Danny Vermin in self defense and discovers his mom needs an operation they cannot afford. Since the execution of Johnny’s father, Killer Kelly, his widow, Ma Kelly, has supported Johnny and his younger brother, Tommy, who is fascinated by the law.

Johnny’s fight with Vermin attracted the notice of local crime boss Jocko Dundee, and Johnny, seeing no honest way to earn the money for his mom’s operation, sees no choice than to do a job for Dundee, even though it probably means breaking the law, and in doing so, “breaking his mother’s heart”. He helps Dundee rob the nightclub belonging to Dundee’s rival, Roman Moronie. When asked his name, Johnny coins the name, “Johnny Dangerously.” But, Moronie never “forgets a fargin face.”

Years pass. With his mom’s continuing medical problems, Johnny goes to work for the Dundee gang full time. He becomes a suave young man, with plenty of folding cash. The whole neighborhood (including the Pope) knows that Kelly is really Johnny Dangerously, but Johnny’s secret identity is carefully concealed from his brother and mother. They think he is a law-abiding nightclub owner. Similarly, the gang knows nothing of Johnny’s mother and brother. Tommy is now in law school, with a girlfriend, and somewhat of a prig–he wants to drop out of law school so he can get a job, marry his girlfriend, and “get laid.” With the assistance of a public health film (“Your Testicles and YOU”), Johnny gets him to go back to law school.

Johnny comes to Dundee’s headquarters—he is still involved in a running feud with Moronie—to find he has taken on two new gang members: Danny Vermin, and his sidekick Dutch. Danny has lived up to his potential and become a total scumbag, with a taste for using opera audiences as shooting galleries. Moronie, subtle as always, sends a robot with a machine gun to try to knock off the gang. He is not successful, and Johnny retaliates by knocking down Moronie’s club (which was in need of expansion anyway) with a bomb dropped from a biplane.

The two gangs war. In the meantime, Johnny falls for a young showgirl new to the big city, Lil Sheridan. They go for a long walk together, ending in sexual fireworks.

The war continues. Moronie sends a plumber to plant explosives in Dundee’s toilet. Dundee has a narrow escape, and he retires in Johnny’s favor. Johnny negotiates a truce with Moronie.

Meanwhile, Tommy graduates from law school (Johnny’s illicit earnings, of course, have paid for the tuition). Despite Johnny’s efforts to steer him into a law firm, he goes to work for the District Attorney’s office. A bit miffed that his money should be used to train a crimefighter, Johnny is nevertheless not worried—District Attorney Burr is on his payroll. The D.A. tries to sidetrack Tommy, but he becomes a major public figure. After he holds hearings looking into Moronie’s activities, the rival crime boss is deported to Sweden despite his protests that he’s “not from there.”

Against Johnny’s orders, Burr and Vermin conspire to kill Tommy. Tommy is badly injured, but survives. Divining the truth, Johnny has Burr killed—but this leaves Tommy as the new D.A.

Tommy recovers, and weds his girlfriend. Vermin discovers that Dangerously is the D.A.’s brother—and Tommy promptly overhears Vermin chortling about it. Tommy confronts Johnny, who agrees to quit the life of crime. The gang, though, isn’t as eager and suggests Johnny may be turning state’s evidence against them. Johnny denies this, and goes to turn the evidence against himself to the Crime Commissioner—who Vermin has just killed—under circumstances that suggest Johnny is the killer. Not only that, Vermin steals Johnny’s prized bubble gum case (formerly Dundee’s cigarette case).

Johnny is arrested for murder, but says he is innocent and the holder of the case is the guilty party. Tommy tries the case against him. Johnny is found guilty, sentenced to the electric chair and sent to death row. But when Vermin congratulates Tommy, and Tommy notices that he has Johnny’s case, he realizes Johnny is innocent. Ma Kelly sucker punches Vermin in the crotch, and the cigarette case drops out of the stricken mobster’s pocket. Ma Kelly and Tommy realize that “Johnny didn’t do it.”

Meanwhile, his mom is using her contacts to investigate the murder. She finds the cleaning lady who is a witness to Vermin’s presence. Tommy hits Vermin with a grand jury subpoena, and he knows that he must kill Tommy.

Johnny arrives on Death Row, where he receives rock star treatment from the starstruck warden. He receives word of Tommy’s danger, and plots an escape, prevailing on the warden to move up his execution (“We’ll bump Steinberg.”) As he is taken to the chair, Johnny assembles what looks like a tommy gun from parts handed to him by inmates. He escapes in a laundry truck driven by Lil.

Johnny, through a wild chase, arrives at the theatre where Tommy is to be killed. He shoots and wounds Vermin, saving Tommy. The governor pardons Johnny as Vermin is arrested.

Back to 1935. The young shoplifter is round eyed. Having taken in the lesson that crime doesn’t pay, he is given a kitten as Johnny Kelly, law abiding pet shop owner, says “Crime doesn’t pay.” The kid goes on his way. Johnny, dressed in a tux, heads off in a riotous limo with girls: “Well, it pays a little!”

REVIEW:

This is my type of film…a screwball comedy spoof set in the 1930s complete with gangsters and big band jazz. It doesn’t get much better than this for me.

Michael Keaton portrays Johnny with the kind of energy and swagger that he is known for. It really is enjoyable to see him as an untouchable mobster who can’t seem to do any wrong.

Joe Piscopo apparetnly disappeared for the most part after this film. It really is a shame since he did a pretty good job as Danny Vermin. I would have liked for his character to have taken over for Roman Morono rather than come in and more or less usurp everything from Johnny, but that would have made a totally different film.

Peter Boyle isn’t really utilized to his full potential here, but does play a good aging mob boss that has a revelation and leaves everything to Michael Keaton’s character. I would have liked for him to have had some funnier lines, though.

Marilu Henner and Glynnis O’Connor are good eye candy throughout the film. The late Dom DeLuise makes a cameo appearance as the pope.

Maureen Stapleton really shines in her role as Ma Kelly, especially when her sons are feuding. She brings a mix of comedy and compassion to her character.

Some films have misleading trailers, but this is not one of them. As madcap and hysterical as it is, the film is even moreso.

The jokes that happen throughout this film are directly realted to the typical gangster films that are set in the same era. You don’t have to be a fan of said films to enjoy/get the jokes, but it helps.

This is the kind of film you watch when you don’t want to think, but rather just sit back and laugh. The plot, while being decent, seems a bit rushed in places, as if they cut out integral parts in favor of some of the jokes, but that may just be my personal observation. Still, I think anyone that watches this is going to have a grand time.

4 out of 5 stars

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 24, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The Galactic Republic is in a period of decline, with its bureaucracy bloated and corrupt and its economy deteriorating. In response to a taxation on trade routes, the greedy Trade Federation organizes a blockade of battleships around the small planet of . Hoping to resolve the matter, the Supreme Chancellor dispatches two Jedi, Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi, to negotiate with Trade Federation Viceroy Nute Gunray. Unbeknownst to them, the Trade Federation is in league with the evil Sith Lord Darth Sidious, who orders them to invade Naboo with an army of battle droids and kill the Jedi. Narrowly evading death, the two Jedi stow aboard landing crafts and escape to Naboo. There Qui-Gon saves local Gungan outcast Jar Jar Binks from being trampled by a Federation tank. Indebted to the Jedi, Jar Jar leads them to the underwater Gungan city of Otoh Gunga, where the Jedi unsuccessfully attempt to persuade the Gungans to help the people of Naboo, though they are able to obtain a transport to reach the city of Theed on the surface.

Queen Amidala of the Naboo is captured by the Federation army, but is rescued by the Jedi. The Queen escapes Naboo with the Jedi on her personal starship, which is damaged on its way through the blockade surrounding the planet, forcing them to land on the nearby desert planet Tatooine for repairs. Qui-Gon ventures into the settlement of Mos Espa with Padmé, one of the Queen’s handmaidens, to a junk shop to purchase a new hyperdrive generator. There they meet a young slave child named Anakin Skywalker, who takes an immediate liking to Padmé. After spending time with Anakin and his mother, Qui-Gon senses a strong presence of the Force within him, and suspects he may be the Chosen One who will bring balance to the Force. Qui-Gon makes a bet with Anakin’s owner to enter him in a Podrace, and that if Anakin wins, he will be freed. With Qui-Gon’s guidance, Anakin manages to win the race and joins the group to be trained as a Jedi, but he is forced to leave his mother, who Qui-Gon was unable to release, behind. Before they leave, they are attacked by Darth Sidious’ apprentice, Darth Maul, who was dispatched to capture the Queen. After a brief fight, they manage to escape.

The Jedi escort the Queen to the Republic capital planet of Coruscant so she can plead her people’s case to the Galactic Senate. Qui-Gon, meanwhile, attempts to persuade the Jedi Council to train Anakin as a Jedi, but they refuse as Anakin is too old and has too many attachments, which would risk him turning to the dark side of the Force. Within the Senate, Senator Palpatine of Naboo convinces the Queen to move for a vote of no confidence in the Supreme Chancellor so they can vote for a new, stronger Chancellor who will help end the conflict. However, she grows frustrated with the lack of action by the Senate, ultimately deciding to return to Naboo with the Jedi.

Back on Naboo, Padmé reveals herself to be Queen Amidala, the other “Queen” having been a decoy for her own protection. The Queen convinces the Gungan people to form an alliance against the Trade Federation. While the inept Jar Jar leads his people in a battle against the droid army and the Queen moves in to capture Viceroy Gunray in Theed, Anakin commandeers a vacant starfighter and joins the dogfight against the Federation droid control ship in space, using his skills with the Force to destroy it, which deactivates the entire droid army. The Jedi, meanwhile, encounter Darth Maul once more and engage him in a two-on-one lightsaber duel. Qui-Gon is mortally wounded in the battle, but Obi-Wan manages to kill the Sith apprentice. With his dying breaths, Qui-Gon tells Obi-Wan to train Anakin. Senator Palpatine is elected as the new Supreme Chancellor, Viceroy Gunray is sent to stand trial for his crimes, and the Jedi Council reluctantly allows Anakin to become Obi-Wan’s apprentice. At a grand ceremony, Queen Amidala presents a gift of appreciation and friendship to the Gungan people.

REVIEW:

I’m a die hard fan of the Star Wars franchise, so you knew I was going to eventually get around to reviewing these films, right?

There are some out there that say this is the worst film of the franchise. I’m not sure if I agree or disagree. If I were to agree, it wouldn’t be to say that it sucks, but rather to say that of the 6 films it is the weakest. With that in mind, I don’t subscribe to what critics have said and continue to say about these prequels.

There are some inconsistencies between this and statements made in the “holy trilogy”, but I’m not gonna throw myself into a tizzy about those.

From the moment you hear the first chord, you know that John Williams’ timeless theme has been retained, but when the climactic fight scene comes near the film’s end, Williams outdid himself with “Duel of the Fates”. His music really captures the audiences imagination as well as provides the perfect atmosphere and excitement for such a climactic moment in the film. Not to be undersold, his score for the rest of the film is typical John Williams, brilliant, to say the least.

As with every other film in the franchise, there is lots of action mixed with scenes of dialogue here and there. The excitement is nonstop and fits perfectly wit the other films. Now that I’ve said that, I must mention the CGI overkill.

I don’t hide my distaste for CGI. I believe it should only be used when necessary, such as giant robots transforming, natural disasters, etc. The aliens, spaceships, and podracers were all obviously CGI. As much as I want to bash them for this, I have to remember that this is a George Lucas film, and his company is one of the companies that really knows how to use CGI. Still, I think they could have done a better job of hiding the CGI-ness of it.

The whole purpose of these prequels was to let us in on Anakin’s rise to jedi status and his eventual turn to the dark side which led to him becoming Darth Vader. I really love how this film handles his youth and doesn’t try to rush into anything. They show Anakin as a young boy, and with the exception of Vader’s trademark breathing after the credits roll, there is no mention of what we already know about his future, unless you count Yoda’s prophecy.

It is good to see some major characters in younger forms, such as the beginning stages of C-3PO, R2-D2, Jabba the Hutt, Emperor (Senator at this time) Palpatine, and Yoda. The acting is top notch. I read a credible critics review that said this film was “…all action and lacked romance.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t go into an action film expecting to see a love story, but it has everything else you would expect from a sci-fi/action film. Don’t listen to what the critics and obsessive Star Wars fans say, this is a good picture. See if you can spot Kierra Knightley.

4 out of 5 stars

Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 24, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The movie begins with entry level investment banker Harold Lee being taken advantage of by two of his coworkers, Billy Carver (Ethan Embry) and J.D. (Robert Tinkler), who pour extra work on him so they can take off for a long weekend. Kumar Patel, in the meantime, is interviewing for medical school admission until he takes a call from Harold, in the course of which he uses vulgarity and overt drug references in the presence of the admissions officer, Dr. Willoughby (Fred Willard). That, combined with an admission that he has no real interest in medical school despite having a perfect MCAT score, and that he only interviews so that his dad will continue to pay for his apartment, results in his being immediately rejected for admission.

Meanwhile Harold has his own problems: he cannot make his way out of the company parking lot without being ID’d by security, cannot park in front of his apartment building because a group of “extreme sports punks” always park there, is too shy to express his feelings toward his beautiful neighbor, Maria (Paula Garcés), and finds out that not only does Kumar trim his pubic hair in Harold’s bedroom naked, but also that he uses Harold’s nose hair scissors to do so.

Later that evening, after smoking marijuana, Harold and Kumar get the munchies and happen to see a TV ad for White Castle. They decide to make a trip to get some hamburgers. They try to convince their friends Goldstein (David Krumholtz) and Rosenberg (Eddie Kaye Thomas), who refuse as they are watching The Gift to see Katie Holmes topless. Finding a White Castle ends up being more difficult than they had anticipated. They discover that the White Castle they had planned to visit in New Brunswick has been replaced by the inferior “Burger Shack”, but that there is a 24 hour White Castle in Cherry Hill.

During the trip, Kumar begins to “come down” and suggests they stop off at Princeton University and have Harold’s friend Cindy Kim (Siu Ta) help them “score” some more weed. While Harold indulges Cindy, Kumar manages to buy some grass from a self-proclaimed “business hippie” Bradley (Dov Tiefenbach), and meets two college girls that invite him to their room. While they are smoking a joint on a staircase, a campus security guard (Albert Howell) catches them and gives chase. Harold and Kumar run into the women’s bathroom to hide and witness a game of “Battleshits” in which Harold and Kumar run off. The two flee the campus, losing their marijuana in the process, and the security guard nabs Bradley instead.

Resuming their journey, Kumar pulls over for a “pit stop” during which a raccoon sneaks into the car. While harold is releiving himself in the forest, another man appears and begins to urinate in the same bush as Kumar, and a squabble ensus. Once the pair drive off, the raccoon attacks Harold, and Harold throws him out of the car window. Fearing that he has contracted rabies he forces Kumar to take him to a hospital, where Kumar’s father Dr. Patel (Errol Sitahal) and brother Saikat Patel (Shaun Majumder) happen to be on staff.

Upon learning that Harold does not have rabies, he and Kumar attempt to leave only to be intercepted by Kumar’s father and brother, who angrily confront him over his failed medical school interview and threaten to cut Kumar off if he fails another. Kumar appears to be repentant, but he instead stole their access cards in order to search for medical marijuana. Before they find anything, however, Kumar is mistaken for his brother and pressed into Emergency Room duty by a hospital assistant Ryan Reynolds. He suggests that they sedate the patient, a gunshot victim, with marijuana. Learning that the hospital does not have any, he decides to do things the “old-fashioned” way. After saving the patient’s life, they get directions to the White Castle in Cherry Hill from the patient.

Back on the road, the pair spot Harold’s love interest Maria outside a screening of Sixteen Candles. When Kumar attempts to get her attention, Harold floors the gas pedal, getting stuck. Kumar loses control of the car and drives into the woods. The tire goes flat and after realizing that Kumar had thrown Harold’s spare into a river while high, they are picked up by Freakshow (Christopher Meloni) a god-loving tow-truck driver who is covered in boils. He takes them back to his house to repair their car and informs them they can make themselves at home and have sex with his wife (Malin Akerman). They have a discussion in which Harold and Kumar agree to have sex with her at the same time. Although reluctant at first, Harold begins fondling her breasts when Freakshow comes in. Even though he initially forgets his earlier offer, he strips and suggests a four-some. This causes the duo to flee to their car and drive away.

Resuming their journey, Harold and Kumar soon discover that they are lost. They pick up a hitchhiker, who turns out to be Neil Patrick Harris, who is strung out on ecstasy and hitchhiking in the middle of nowhere. They head into a gas station where, after another confrontation with the “extreme sports punks”, the store’s cashier (Rick Sood) gives them directions. As they leave the store, they find Harris driving away in Harold’s car.

While planning to call the police to report Harris’ stealing the car, the two encounter officer Palumboa (Sandy Jobin-Bevans), a racist cop who fines Harold for jaywalking even though there are no cars on the road. Kumar instigates an argument that results in Harold being taken to the police station for assaulting the officer.

While in jail Harold sees Bradley the “business hippie”; Bradley’s bag of weed has been confiscated and his mother takes him home. He then meets an African-American professor Tarik (Gary Anthony Williams), who claims he was busted for being black. After making a fake 911 call, Kumar breaks Harold out of the jail but catches a whiff of weed and finds Bradley’s confiscated bag. Kumar takes it before fleeing with Harold into the nearby woods.

Now lost in the woods, Harold & Kumar encounter an escaped cheetah they had heard about on the news. Kumar tames the cheetah by getting it stoned and they resume their journey by riding the cheetah. Unfortunately, Harold is hit by a branch, falls off and goes unconscious. He awakens to find that his laptop has been damaged. Additionally, the cheetah took them in the wrong direction and they are still lost.

After finding their way out of the woods, they find a hot dog joint and see their neighbors Goldstein and Rosenberg eating hot dogs and looking happy. Harold decides that he craves that feeling of satisfaction that comes from getting what you want. After yet another encounter with the “extreme sports punks”, Harold and Kumar steal the punks’ orange Ford Bronco. Shortly, a police officer spots the truck and begins pursuing them. They temporarily elude the officer by driving off-road through the woods but are trapped at the edge of a cliff.

Harold is now ready to give up on the adventure, but Kumar makes a passionate speech about their journey and happens to spot the White Castle they have been searching for right below them. They take a hang glider off the truck and glide off the cliff to reach their destination. Having finally arrived at the White Castle, they place their orders only to discover that neither of them has any money. To their rescue comes Neil Patrick Harris, who apologizes for what he did and pays for their meal and returns Harold’s car.

After eating, Kumar has an epiphany and realizes that he has always wanted to be a doctor, but was too afraid of being one of those “nerdy Indian guys turned doctor”, and says he might actually go to his next medical school interview. Arriving back at their apartment, they encounter Maria in the hallway, waiting for the elevator. Kumar makes Harold ride back downstairs with her. In the elevator, after an awkward start, Harold professes his love for Maria and the two kiss. Unfortunately, she is leaving for a trip to Amsterdam. Kumar then convinces Harold to go with him on the next plane to Amsterdam, reminding him: “You do realize what’s legal in Amsterdam, don’t ya?”

REVIEW:

I’ve never smoked weed, nor have I had the “pleasure” of eating at White Castle, but I still found this film hilarious.

Harold & Kumar have become the new Jay & Silent Bob. Although they share the stoner similarities, Harold & Kumar are no slackers. Harold, played by John Cho, is an investment banker. Although he is the shy, timid type, by film’s end he seems to have grown a backbone. Of course, if you go through all the stuff he goes through, you’d probably do the same. Kumar, played by Kal Penn, appears to be headed to med school to follow in the family tradition of doctors. He obviously knows his stuff, but doesn’t have the desire. This is no more obvious then in a scene where he has to perform surgery and is more concerned with finding medicinal marijuana rather than helping a dying man, that is until he nearly dies on the table.

Neil Patrick Harris portrays Neil Patrick Harris. Confused? Well, I heard him say in an interview that, although he’s playing himself, he wanted it be known that he isn’t like this on-screen persona, so we have the character of Neil Patrick Harris, who seems to be an R-rated version of his character from How I Met Your Mother , Barney.

Freakshow was a rather odd and random character to be inserted in at the most opportune time. I had no idea that was Christopher Meloni until the credits rolled. He really got into character.

There are many gags and jokes that make this film a great comedy. The guys get a cheetah high and ride it, more than once there is a dream sequence with a giant bag of weed, and the battleshits joke is priceless. With all that, my favorite random joke scene has to be the animated Harold in burger land. Words can’t do it justice. You have to see it to appreciate it.

As you can tell, I’m a real big fan of this film. However, it’s not the greatest. It seems disconnected in some parts, but every deficiency that this film exhibits seemed to be improved upon in the sequel, Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. This film will have you on the floor laughing, though, that’s for sure. Watch and enjoy!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Role Models

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 23, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Danny (Paul Rudd) and Wheeler (Seann William Scott) are two salesmen in the greater Los Angeles area for an energy drink, Minotaur. They promote it as a way to keep kids off drugs. Wheeler loves the job. Danny on the other hand, hates the job and possesses a constant negative attitude toward life, which results in the collapse of his relationship with his girlfriend, attorney Beth (Elizabeth Banks). One day after making one of their presentations at a high school, the duo find that their company truck is being towed for parking in a “No Parking” zone. They protest by trying to drive it away from the tow-truck, but they end up driving it up a statue in front of the school.

They are arrested and the judge sentences the two to a 30 day jail sentence. Beth, however, manages to strike a deal with the judge in which they have to log 150 hours of community service over the next thirty days at the judge’s favorite charity, a big-brother style program called Sturdy Wings, led by Gayle Sweeny (Jane Lynch). Gayle, who takes an instant dislike to Danny and Wheeler, is aware that their presence at Sturdy Wings is court-ordered and warns them that if they fail to carry out their tasks to her satisfaction, she will have them sent to prison. Wheeler is paired up with Ronnie Shields (Bobb’e J. Thompson), a foulmouthed, streetwise miscreant obsessed with breasts who has driven away all the other “Bigs” he has been paired with, while Danny is paired up with Augie Farks (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), a nerdy teenager obsessed with live action role-playing games.

Initially, the pair find their task extremely difficult, with Danny unable to find any common ground with Augie and his narrow interests, and Ronnie taking virtually no interest in Wheeler. The pair initially consider simply completing their sentence in prison, but doing that will cost them their jobs and their careers. After a few days they gradually bond with their respective partners; Ronnie takes an interest in Wheeler’s favorite band KISS and discovers that Wheeler shares his obsession with breasts, whilst Danny joins Augie’s medieval live action role playing game, LAIRE (Live Action Interactive Role-playing Explorers). At the same time, Danny tries to make up with Beth for his mistakes, but to no avail.

Unfortunately, their success is cut short after Danny gets himself and Augie permanently banned from LAIRE after causing a fight with the “King” and then earns the animosity of Augie’s parents after criticizing their hostility towards his interests. Wheeler, meanwhile, takes Ronnie to a party and leaves him unsupervised while he has sex with another guest, resulting in Ronnie walking home by himself. Ronnie’s and Augie’s parents consequently ask Sturdy Wings to assign them new mentors. As such, the pair are given a court appointment where they will likely be sentenced to some jail time. In the elevator, Danny berates Wheeler for leaving Ronnie behind while Wheeler scolds him about his whining. The two have a falling out and start fighting as the elevator opens.

Danny looks through his closet and finds the battle attire Augie had given him. He then goes to the Burger Hole (where the LAIRE King and his men eat before every battle) and asks for forgiveness and to be able to fight in that afternoon’s Battle Royale, the final battle of the year. Meanwhile, Wheeler goes to Ronnie’s house and gets permission from Ronnie’s mother to hang out with Ronnie after he gets out of jail.

Augie and Danny are told the can not battle with Xanthia (Augies original “Kingdom”). Danny calls Wheeler and asks him and Ronnie to join the battle not for him, but for Augie. They show up as the nation of “Kiss My Anthia” dressed as the band members of KISS, and battle in the battle royale. In the end its a duel between the King of LAIRE and Augie. Augie wins but then is defeated by Esplen who claimed she was hiding behind the bush. The parents of both see how they handle the kids and forgive them. In the after-battle party, Augie finally hits it off with Esplen, who asks him to become her King, which he accepts, and the two kiss. Gayle, impressed with the pair’s efforts, tells them that due to a long standing relationship with the judge, she will be able to get their names cleared. The movie ends with Danny serenading Beth in front of everyone with an off-key and improvised version of the KISS song “Beth” (a reference to him saying “getting up in front of a large group of people and singing isn’t my idea of fun” at the beginning of the movie) and the two reconcile.

REVIEW:

I love a good comedy, especially one that doesn’t get all preachy at the end forgetting that it’s a comedy rather than a drama, so of course I was going to like this film.

The plot is simple enough, but it seems as though they forget to develop it halfway through the film and try to compensate for it with the conflict between the guy and their little brothers. I honestly thought that the film was going to end after the buddy montage following their camping trip. It just seemed to be a good place to end things, but there was still an hour left to to be told.

Paul Rudd already annoys me. This film did not do him any favors in my book. He spent the entire film being negative. One, or more, of the characters even brought up the fact that is negativity was the reason his girlfriend left him. As a matter of fact, in the big fight they have in the coffee shop, she makes it clear that she doesn’t care for his negative attitude. Yet, he goes through the whole film bordering on emo status. I was totally expecting him to turn goth or something before film’s end.

In stark contrast, Sean William Scott played the goofy, slacker character we’ve gotten used to seeing him play. AS they say, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” These characters work for Scott, and complement the depressive Rudd, not to mention keep the audience from wanting to kill themselves.

Elizabeth Banks is Rudd’s girlfriend who dumps him after she just can’t take anymore of his negative attitude. Since she is a lawyer, though, she has to defend Rudd and Scott after they run amok following Rudd’s drunken stupor with Minotaur power drink. She handles the situation and character beautifully. I am so glad they didn’t make her become a bitch, as so many films tend to do with the ex after the breakup. It just wouldn’t work with this film, especially with “Negative Nancy” Paul Rudd.

Christopher Mintz-Plasse, best known to audiences as McLovin from Superbad.  Strangely enough, his character here is nearly the same, just more subdued and even nerdier. As with Superbad, Mintz-Plasse may be the most endearing character of the entire film. When are we gonna get to see if this guy can carry his own picture?

Bobb’e J. Thompson has quite the little mouth on him, which is saying something considering he was paired up with Sean William Scott’s character. Their relationship was rocky to start out with, but as it grows you feel as if they could be big and little brothers for quite some time. Not to mention, his mom is a MILF.

Gayle Sweeny has been popping up in a lot of stuff lately. She is definitely one of the underrated comedic actresses around. As the head of the big brother program, she doesn’t take any BS (as she makes it perfectly clear). I kind of wish we could have seen more of her, though.

There is plenty of physical comedy in this film, but I felt robbed that they didn’t use the forest for any of it.

The role playing battle was epic, as was the snarkiness of the king and many of the medieval people out there.

I really enjoyed this film. Except for maybe two scenes (which may only be visible in the unrated version), there is no gross out humor, so those of you that freak out at the mere thought of such things can calm down. Sure this film has its flaws, but there aren’t many movies that come out these days that don’t, so sit back and enjoy!

4 out of 5 stars

Singin’ in the Rain

Posted in Classics, Comedy, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 23, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) is a popular silent film star with humble roots as a singer, dancer, and stunt man. Don barely tolerates his vapid, shallow leading lady, Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), who claims to love him, as the publicity links them romantically.

One day, to escape from overenthusiastic fans, Don jumps into a passing car driven by Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds). She drops him off, but not before claiming to be a stage actress and sneering at his undignified accomplishments. Later, at a party, the head of Don’s studio, R.F. Simpson (Millard Mitchell), shows a short demonstration of a talking picture, but his guests are unimpressed. Don runs into Kathy again at the party, after she jumps out of a cake. To his amusement and her embarrassment, he discovers that Kathy is only a chorus girl, part of the entertainment (“Dreaming of You”). Furious, she throws a cake at him, only to hit Lina right in the face. Later, after weeks of searching, Don makes up with Kathy after she is found in another Monumental Pictures production, and they begin to fall in love.

After a rival studio releases its first talking picture, The Jazz Singer, and it proves to be a smash hit, R.F. decides he has no choice but to convert the new Lockwood and Lamont film, The Dueling Cavalier, into a talkie. The production is beset with difficulties (most, if not all, taken from real life), by far the worst being Lina’s comically grating voice. A test screening is a disaster. In one scene, for instance, Don repeats his own line “I love you” to Lina over and over, to the audience’s derisive laughter (a reference to a scene by John Gilbert in his first talkie).

Don’s best friend, Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor), comes up with the idea to dub Lina’s voice with Kathy’s and they persuade R.F. to turn The Dueling Cavalier into a musical called The Dancing Cavalier. At the end of production, Lina finds out that Kathy is dubbing her voice; she is furious and does everything possible to sabotage the romance between Don and Kathy. She becomes even angrier when she discovers that R.F. intends to give Kathy a screen credit and a big publicity buildup. Lina, having consulted lawyers, blackmails R.F. into backing down.

The premiere of The Dancing Cavalieris a tremendous success. When the audience clamors for Lina to sing live, Don, Cosmo, and R.F. improvise and get Lina to lip-synch while Kathy sings into a second microphone while hidden behind the stage’s curtain. Later, while Lina is “singing,” Don, Cosmo and R.F. gleefully open the stage curtain behind her, revealing the deception — Lina then flees in embarrassment. When Kathy tries to run away as well, Don stops her and introduces the audience to “the real star of the film.”

REVIEW:

If you’re a fan of this blog then you know that I’m a hige fan of classic films and musicals. Surprisingly, up until tonight, I had never seen Singin’ in the Rain.I have to say, it was definitely worth the wait and no surprise that it is ranked the #1 musical on AFI’s top 100 musicals of all time list.

The music in the film is quite catchy and memorable, as are dance numbers. Of course, when you have Gene Kelly in the cast, do you honestly, expect less?

The highlight of the film for many has to be the iconic title song, “Singin’ in the Rain”, which shows Kelly in rare form as he sings, dances, twirls and umbrella, and splashes in puddles. If this isn’t one of the most iconic scenes in cinema, then I don’t know what is.

The triumvirate of Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds really captivate the audience when they are on the screen.

Cyd Charisse may not have a line in the film, but she definitely has one of the most memorable scenes as the mystery girl in the “Broadway Melody” scene. I’ve heard more than a few say that this is a mega sexy scene, even by today’s standards, so you can imagine what kind of reaction it must have had when the film was originally released in 1952.

Jean Hagen’s voice in this film is enough to make your skin crawl. No woman should sing like that unless she’s doing the voice of Betty Boop. I’m not familiar with her work, so I don’t know if this was acting just for this film or not, but it was quite painful. Hagen plays the ditzy blonde as best she can, but let’s face it, she’s no Marilyn. Her ego and jealousy get the best of her and cause her to be the villain of the film. With her voice and jealousy, she’s just not a likable character.

The love story in this film is just something that can’t go without mentioning. Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont are in love…at least in front of the cameras. Lockwood longs for something more and finds it in Barbra Sheldon, however Lina thinks that their relationship is real and does all she can to be rid of Barbara. She even goes so far as to get her fired from her job and threaten to sue the studio. The woman’s ego gets in her way, as does her voice, and Barabra not only gets her chance in the spotlight, but she gets her man.

I’m not going to gush anymore about the perfection that exudes from this film, but rather let you watch it for yourself and enjoy it!

5 out of 5 stars

Ed Wood

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 23, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Edward D. Wood, Jr. is struggling to join the film industry. Upon hearing of an announcement in Varietythat producer George Weiss is trying to purchase Christine Jorgensen’s life story, Ed is inspired to meet Weiss in person. Weiss explains that Variety’s announcement was a news leak, and it is impossible to purchase Jorgensen’s rights. The producer decides to ‘fictionalize’ the film titled I Changed My Sex!, and “do it without the shemale”. One day, Ed meets his longtime idol Béla Lugosi, after spotting him trying out a coffin in an undertakers. Ed drives Béla home and the two become friends. Later, Ed deceides to star Béla in the film and convinces Weiss that he is perfect to direct I Changed My Sex! because he is a transvestite.

Ed and Weiss argue over the film’s title, Weiss has already had the poster printed, which Ed changes to Glen or Glenda. The shoot finishes on Glen or Glenda, and Ed is enthusiastic that he starred, directed, wrote and produced his own film. Glen or Glenda is released to critical and financial failure. Ed is unsuccessful in getting a job at Warner Bros., a producer there tells him Glen or Glenda is the worst film he has ever seen, but Ed’s girlfriend, Dolores Fuller, tells him that he is not “studio material”, and that he should find independent backers for his next film, “Bride of the Atom”. Ed is unsuccessful in finding money for Bride of the Atom, but is introduced to the psychic The Amazing Criswell.

At a bar, Ed meets Loretta King, who he thinks has enough money to fund Bride of the Atom. Filming begins, but is halted. Ed convinces meat packing industry tycoon, Don McCoy, to take over funding the film. McCoy does so, but on the condition that film ends with a giant explosion, and that his son Tony, who “is a little slow”, is the leading man. The filming of Bride of the Atom finishes, but Dolores and Ed break up after the wrap party, because of Ed’s transvestism. Also, Béla, who is revealed to be highly depressed and a morphine addict, attempts to conduct a double suicide with Ed, but is talked out of it. Béla is put in rehab, and Ed eventually finds happiness when he meets Kathy O’Hara, who is visiting her father. Ed takes her on a date on tells her and tells her that he a transvestite so he won’t have to keep it a secret from her.

Ed begins to shoot a film with Béla outide his home. Ed and company attend the premiere for Bride of the Monster, an angry mob chases them out of the theatre. Sometime later, Béla dies leaving Ed without a star. Ed convinces Reynolds that funding Ed’s script for “Grave Robbers from Outer Space” would result in a box office success, and generate enough money to make all of the Twelve Apostles films. Dr. Tom Mason, Kathy’s chiropractor, is chosen to be Béla’s stand-in. However, Ed and the Baptists begin having conflicts over the title and content of the script which they want to have changed to Plan 9 from Outer Space along with Ed’s B movie directing style, his casting decisions and his transvestism. This causes a distressed Ed to leave the set and immediately take a taxi to the nearest bar, where he encounters his idol Orson Welles. Welles tells Ed that “visions are worth fighting for”, and filming for Plan 9 finishes with Ed taking action against his producers. The film ends with the premiere of Plan 9, and Ed and Kathy taking off to Las Vegas, Nevada to get married.

REVIEW:

A while back I had the pleasure of watching  Plan 9 from Outer Space. After I finished, I decided to check this one out. I’m not so sure that was the wisest decision on my part.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad picture, but if you take out Johnny Depp, Martin Landau, and Bill Murray it becomes a total snooze-fest.

This was still pretty early in Depp’s career, but he masters the role and commands the screen with the presence of a seasoned pro. His take on Ed Wood is very flamboyant, which I hear is not too far from the man himself, and seeing him in drag was hilarious. Depp seems to be Tim Burton’s go to guy, especially when i comes to characters named Ed (as in Edward Scissorhands).

Martin Landau brings Bela Lugosi back to life. Whether he was a fan or not is unknown to me, bu one thing is for sure, he did his homework on Lugosi’s mannerisms. To make things even better, Landau makes Lugosi feel like the grandfather the audience can fall in love with. This make his death just past the halfway mark that much more impactful.

Bill Murray steals the few scenes he is in as Bunny Breckenridge, the drag queenobviously gay friend. He really sells the, for lack of a better term, gayness. One of his best performances, acting wise, in my opinion.

The rest of the cast is nothing spectacular, as I said before. Quite frankly, they seem uncomfortable in their roles, with the exception of George “The Animal” Steele as Tor Johnston and Vincent D’Onofrio as Orson Welles. Steel and Johnson were both wrestlers, so it wasn’t a big leap for him to get into that role. D’Onofrio just happens to slightly resemble Wells, and that is how he got the part, which was voiced by Maurice LaMarche.

The black and white filming of this film really puts the audience in the mindset that they’re looking at something from the past. Tim Burton has yet to make a film I don’t like. The man has a real talent for filmmaking, but I have to say he falls short with this one. I found myself wishing it would hurry and end. This is something I don’t normally do, unless I really don’t like a film. Unlike Ed Wood’s films which were so bad that they were good, Ed Woodjust seems to try to hard to find an identity and by the time it finally does, the credits are rolling. Tim Burton needs to be kissing Johnny Depp’s feet for keeping this film from being more of a bore than it is.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars