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