Archive for July, 2009

The Pink Panther 2

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 29, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

When the master thief, the Tornado, begins stealing expensive artifacts (the Magna Carta in London, the Turin Shroud in Turin, and the Imperial Sword in Kyoto), the Government of France assembles a Dream Team of Amateur Detectives to solve the case. Inspector Clouseau is reassigned from his task as a parking officer by Chief Inspector Dreyfus to join the Dream Team in Japan, site of the Tornado’s recent heist. At the airport, as soon as he is officially leaving France, news breaks that the Pink Panther Diamond has also been stolen. Clouseau travels back to the scene of the crime, where the other members of the Dream Team, Inspector Pepperidge (Great Britain), Vicenzo (Italy), Kenji (an electronics specialist from Japan), and Sonia (a researcher and criminology expert from India), are gathering. They go to Rome to investigate a black market fence, Alonso Avellaneda, who deals with The Tornado. Assuming he is The Tornado, the Dream Team question him while Clouseau snoops around. Avellaneda successfully vindicates himself by demonstrating that he lacks a bullet-wound to the right shoulder- the Tornado was shot in that shoulder during a theft over a decade ago. After they leave, Avellaneda meets with The Tornado himself.

Later on that night, Clouseau and his partner, Ponton, spy on Avellaneda, using a wire they have planted on him, as he takes a date out for dinner. Unfortunately, the mission is compromised when they find Vicenzo and Clouseau’s girlfriend, Nicole, together at the restaurant. Having been banned for burning down the restaurant three months earlier, Clouseau disguises himself as a dancer and attempts to switch the wire to Nicole’s table. In the process, he ends up burning down the restaurant again. At the same time, The Tornado steals the Pope’s ring, an act which begins to turn public opinion against the Dream Team. When Clouseau’s acts of foolishness aggravate the situation, he is voted off the team, with only Sonia sympathizing with him. Shortly afterward, Clouseau is called to an office where they see the Tornado has killed himself, and left a suicide note claiming he destroyed the Pink Panther- regarding it as being so beautiful that he could not bring anyone other than himself to own it- and left the other treasures to be recovered. Examining a key they found in the Pope’s Chambers, they successfully match the DNA of the victim with DNA of the Tornado acquired when he was shot, and thus believe themselves to have solved the case. However, Clouseau is unconvinced and believes the Tornado was not the thief.

For their victory in recovering the stolen items (minus the Pink Panther), a celebration is thrown in the Dream Team’s honor. Clouseau, who was not invited, tries to convince Dreyfus that the real thief is still at large, but is ignored. Dreyfus relays to the group that Clouseau told him Sonia was the thief, and the group, treating the idea as a joke, works out a plausible explanation for how she could have done it; as the Tornado’s ex-lover, she would have in-depth knowledge of his methods, and has set up a situation to draw all attention to the thefts of the other artifacts while leaving her free to sell on the Pink Panther as the only treasure that could be cut up and sold on without suspicion. As Sonia tries to leave, Nicole asks her to take everything out of her purse. Sonia pulls out a gun, and after initially threatening to shoot Nicole, she shoots Clouseau, but the bullet ricochets off the medal of honor and kills the waiter instead. She then runs upstairs. Clouseau and the rest of the Dream Team chase her all around the building, while they all—except for Clouseau—make fools of themselves. Finally cornered, Sonia threatens to destroy the Pink Panther, and Clouseau successfully goads her to do so. Clouseau reveals that she had destroyed a fake gem he had switched with the real one, and that the Tornado, a master thief and a recognized authority on valuable gems, would have recognized this; therefore, his suicide note—where he praised the beauty of the gem—was forged and he was actually murdered. He reveals that he had given Sonia’s car a ticket two days before the Pink Panther was stolen, contradicting her alibi of having been delayed to the crime scene because of her flight. Dreyfus tries to claim credit for having appointed Clouseau to his parking job, but Clouseau, remembering Dreyfus told him to deny this to anyone who asked, rebukes the claim. Clouseau later marries Nicole, though the wedding is shortlived after Dreyfus fires the cork out of the Champaigne bottle onto a security device, causing Black Ops to storm the party in a manner similar to an eariler event in the film. Clouseau and Nicole ditch the wedding and head for the airport for their honeymoon with the animated Pink Panther watching them leave. The Pink Panther looks into the camera as he walks into the chaotic wedding and closes the door.

REVIEW:

To this day  still don’t understand what exactly the Pink Panther has to do with these movies, but I’ve always been a fan of him and his theme song, so any excuse to get exposure to both, I’ll take.

Steve Martin has been doing comedy do long, its like second nature to him. In the original films from the 60s and 70s, Inspector Clouseau was a bumbling idiot played by Peter Sellers, here Martin takes up the mantle (and a bad accent). As with all things Martin, there is plenty of physical comedy to go around. These classic Martin moments are what make this film so entertaining.

The Dream Team, comprosed of veteran actors Alfred Molina, Andy Garcia, and newcomer Yuki Matsuzaki actually work well with Martin. I especially liked the first meeting between Molina and Martin. who would have veer thought Molina could do comedy?

What’s a good film without some beautiful ladies to throw in for good measure? The Pink Panther 2 has two, the lovable and cute Emily Mortimer and Aishwarya Rai, who has been called the most beautiful woman i nthe world (you can say she’s an upgrade from Beyonce in the first film, if you like). Mortimer reprises her role from the first film as Martin’s assistant who is still madly in love with him. She’s such a cutie, you can’t help but feel sorry for her. Rai is one of those women that can stop every man (and some women) in their tracks just with a look, let a lone waking into the room, but I had no idea she could act. Honestly, she’s not half bad.

Jean Reno, John Cleese, and Lily Tomlin, as well as a cameo from Jeremy Irons fill out the rest of the cast. Not a weak link to be found among them. As a matter of fact, Tomlin’s character plays off Martin’s idiocy so well that if there isa third film, she is mandatory for it, in my opinion.

The film starts off alot funnier than it finishes, but that seems to be the case with most comedies these days. At least it doesn’t lose the light hearted tone and get all serious on us, but rather it just loses some steam.

I read one review that wondered when Steve Martin stopped being funny. I’ve always found Martin funny. Yeah, this isn’t his funniest picture, but it’s still some fine work. do I think this film could have been better? Well, see, I’m not so sure.  Maybe, but if you start messing with this and that, you’ll end up having to change the tone here, take out a key joke there, cut a character here, and these are what makes this film so good, so it’s hard to say if this could be any better, but rather just enjoy it for what it is, a good comedy that everyone can enjoy. There are so few of those these days.

4 out of 5 stars

Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li

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

PLOT:

The movie opens with Chun Li narrating her experience growing up aspiring to be a concert pianist. As a child, she moves from San Francisco to Hong Kong with her family. There, along with piano, she learns Wushu from her father, Xiang, who is a well connected businessman. One night, her home is attacked by Bison and his henchman. Chun Li’s father fights them off until Balrog grabs a hold of a young Chun Li, forcing him to surrender. As Bison and his men are leaving with Xiang, Chun Li’s mother tries to stop them. Balrog just punches her.

Years later, Chun Li grows up and becomes a talented concert pianist. At the end of one of her concerts, she receives a scroll written in Ancient Chinese text. On her way home, she sees a mysterious homeless man getting assaulted by street thugs. After the thugs leave, Chun Li tends to him and notices a spiderweb tattoo on his hand. Meanwhile, Xiang is shown working for Bison as a prisoner. In return for his services, he is allowed to view pictures of his daughter all grown up. Back home, Chun Li’s mother finally loses her battle to cancer as Chun Li and her servants mourn her loss at a funeral.

Elsewhere, we see Nash and Maya investigating a murder of several heads of criminal syndicate families in Bangkok. Chun Li on the side is meeting with a wise old lady in town who studies the scroll and tells her to either find a man named Gen in Bangkok, revealing to her an image of the same spiderweb she saw tattooed on the homeless man’s hand. With a new goal in mind, Chun Li leaves her home and heads to Bangkok. After days of searching for Gen without any luck, she sees a man being assaulted in an alley by thugs. Chun Li comes to his rescue and fights them. After a long battle ended by finishing them with a Bike Rack Drop Ultra move, Chun Li collapses in exhaustion. There, we see Gen pick her up to take her to his home.

Gen tells Chun Li that he knows how to find her father and that Bison has him, but that she also needs anger management. In response, she goes to an internet cafe to find out more about Bison, who is now holding the families of property owners hostage in order to force them to sign their property over to him. Upon leaving, one of the owners is asked to hand over the rights to a docking harbor, allowing the shipment of the “White Rose”. Chun Li overhears this. Meanwhile at Interpol, Nash figures out that Bison’s headquarters are right across the street from the Police Station.

Later that night, Cantana, one of Bison’s secretaries, goes to a nightclub. Chun Li spies on her and notices her eyeing the girls in the club. Chun Li moves in and seductively dances with her before casually walking away into the bathroom. Cantana follows her and locks the bathroom door. Chun Li beats Cantana until Cantana reveals the location of the White Rose. Cantana’s bodyguards come back and Chun Li escapes after fighting them off.

We are then told of Bison’s origins. He is the son of Irish missionaries. He grew up an orphan having to steal fish from people in Thailand. In order to lose his conscience, he forced his daughter out of the womb of his wife prematurely. This transferred his conscience into her, thus Bison no longer had/has a conscience. Back at Gen’s home, Bison’s henchmen come after Gen and Chun Li. Gen fights them off until Balrog blows up his house with a RPG. With Gen gone and nowhere to be found, Chun Li runs off. She is then attacked by Vega, who she defeats soundly and hangs upside down over the side of a building.

Chun Li then heads to the harbor and interrogates an employee into telling her the arrival time of the White Rose. Later that night, this turns out to be a trap as several Shadaloo soldiers capture her. Chun Li is then taken back to Shadaloo headquarters and is reunited with her father. Bison tells her that Xiang outlived his usefulness and breaks his neck, killing him. Bison and Balrog leave Chun Li to the henchman to finish off. Chun Li however escapes when they try to swing her around from the ceiling like a pinata. As she runs away, she is shot in the waist by Balrog. Before Balrog could recapture her, the crowd begins throwing durians at him. This scares Balrog as he drives off in his Mercedes-Benz. Chun Li meanwhile, is rescued again by Gen, who narrowly escaped death and survived the explosion in his house.

Chun Li approaches Nash and tells him she needs backup to take down Bison. Nash and Maya oblige as Chun Li approaches the dock employee who set her up last time. The employee tells her that he was forced into deceiving her and tells her the real arrival time. Chun Li doubts him at first, but he points to the white board at the arrival time, proving that it is true. At the dock later that night, Interpol agents engage in a shootout with Shadaloo soldiers. On a ship, Chun Li finds a girl asking where her father is. Meanwhile, Gen fights Balrog and kills him by stabbing him with a pipe spraying nitrogen. We later find out that the girl is Bison’s daughter and her name is Rose, making her the White Rose. Bison takes her in and welcomes her warmly.

Bison walks into his office where he is ambushed by Gen. Gen however is no match for him. Sensing his daughter in danger, Bison goes back to his daughters room, where he finds she is gone. Gen shows up again and ambushes Bison, getting beaten up again. Chun Li then comes in and fights Bison. After a long battle, she hits him with a bamboo pole and drops sandbags on him, startling him and making him unaware of what is going on. She then charges up a Kikoken and shoots it at him, knocking him off the scaffolding they were fighting on, then jumping on his head and twisting it all the way around, breaking his neck and killing him.

Back home, Chun Li is settled down as Gen pays her a visit. He shows her an ad for a Street Fighter tournament, telling her about a Japanese fighter named Ryu. Chun Li declines, saying that she’s home for now.

REVIEW:

I’ve always been a fan of the Street Fighter game. I haven’t bothered to watch the original film that came out back i nthe late 80s, though, I will soon enough. It can’t be any worse than this. There is a reason this was released when it was and not during a time when it could really make some bucks.

When I heard they were thining of doing films on the characters from Street Fighter, I was excited. As with many video game characters, each has a very interesting backstory. The problem is getting that story to translate well onto the big screen and getting the right people for the parts. Chun-Li is an interesting character, although, for me I can count on one hand how many time I’ve beaten her. Still, I wouldn’t have picked her to be first, I’d have gone with M.Bison, Ryu, Guille, or someone of that caliber. Still, the story is not this film’s downfall, but rather the atrocious acting from two of the leads.

Kristin Kreuk, who apparently is from Smallville, somehow won the role of Chun-Li. Good for her for winning the part and all, but I would have given it to a more Asian actress, such as Maggie Q, Kelly Hu, etc. That’s just me, though. Kreuk is very wooden and unbelievable as Chun-Li. For someone who loses her mother and dad is missing, you’d think there’s have been some emotion going on, but nothing. Even after she is reunited with and watches her dad get killed, there is little to no emotional depth to her. The narration was even worse. If I wanted to hear monotone speaking, I’d listen to Ben Stein. Kreuk just made this film painful for me.

Another bad acting performance comes from Chris Klein. Look, this guy has come along way in his career, but someone needs to advise him to take better roles. Now, he may be a fan of the game, so taking this one may have just been because of those feelings. Klein, though, has to give his worse performance on screen I’ve ever seen from him. I’ve seen better acting from elementary school theater productions. Not to mention his character seems to be just thrown in there to throw some sort of subplot into this already convoluted movie…I’ll get to that in a bit.

Not all the acting was bad, though. Neal McDonough steals the show as M.Bison. He makes this thing watchable, that’s for sure. On top of that, his accent seems authentic, even if I can’t place where it is exactly he’s supposed to be from.

Robin Shou has a bit of an ironic role here. You may remember in Mortal Kombat, as Liu Kang, he was a bit of a rebellious “chosen one”. Here, he’s on the other side of that coin. His role as Gen has him teaching Chun-Li various fighting techniques and whatnot to survive. I found a bit of humor in that. Like klein, he appears to be a lot smaller than he was in the role we know him best for, but his talent (acting and martial arts) has not dwindled at all.

Moon Bloodgood is a nice piece of eye candy for those of us that are not really attracted to Kristin Kreuk. Her role, though, isn’t that big, and actually involves that convoluted subplot that really doesn’t need to be in this thing. Come to think of it, she might have made a good Chun-Li.

Michel Clarke Duncan fits Balrog to a ‘T’ and Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas shows up as Vega. Both characters though seem to be thrown in just to let the viewers have some characters from the game.

This film has too much potential to be this bad. Everything is in place for it to succeed, except two things. The afforestation bad acting and the convoluted subplot involving Interpol and trying to catch M.Bison’s crime syndicate. Now, I understand they had to stick something in there to play up the bad guy role of Bison and all, but this just felt tacked on and pointless. Also, they spent way too much time on the early years of Chun-Li. Obviously, this is an origin story, but people aren’t watching it to see drama and a little girl hanging on her dad for 30 minutes. We want some action, and there just wasn’t enough in it for me.

Video games just don’t make good movies 90% of the time. There are a few exceptions. Of course, it wasn’t that long ago that the same could have been said for comic book movies. All it takes is the right one to catch on. Unfortunately, this is not it, and may very well be the first and last of the origin films. I haven’t heard of any more in the works. As you can tell, I’m not fan of this picture, and kind of knew it wasn’t going to be any good before I even popped it in the DVD player, but I still watched it anyway, hoping I would be wrong. As I always say, you should watch and make your own decision, you’ve just read my opinion,

2 out of 5 stars

Eight Legged Freaks

Posted in Comedy, Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , on July 29, 2009 by Mystery Man


PLOT:

In the quiet mining town of Prosperity, Arizona, an exhausted trucker carrying a cargo of toxic waste swerves off the road to avoid killing a rabbit, loosening one of the barrels, which rolls down the sandy slopes and into a swamp where a small population of insects live. Nobody notices this and the toxins begin polluting the pond and the surrounding area. By next week, an exotic spider collector named Joshua has been making regular visits to the site, where he collects crickets for his spiders. Although the bugs have ingested the toxins, he is oblivious since the insects seem unaffected.

Days later, a young boy named Mike Parker is riding on his bicycle down to the man’s spider collection store to visit Joshua. Joshua is excited to show him how much larger his spiders have grown, and declares that he finally received his newest spiders from Brazil: an enormous female Orb Weaver named Consuela and around a dozen males, who bring live food to Consuela to earn her trust and the right to mate. After Mike leaves, Joshua is bitten by an escaped tarantula and is driven into a frenzy and falls on a group of glass spider cages. He is soon wrapped and the spiders make their home in his store, growing larger and larger before heading into his backyard.

Mike attempts to return but is stopped by his mother, Sheriff Sam Parker (Kari Wührer) and Deputy Pete pulling the toxic barrel out of the pond. Sam scolds Mike, reminding him that the spiders are dangerous and he shouldn’t be seeing Joshua. Sam forces Mike to get in the car, however Sam has to stop a group of motorcyclists who are speeding and give them a ticket. Sam’s daughter Ashley (Scarlett Johansson) is riding on the back seat of one of the motorcycles with her boyfriend Bret, who is the mayor’s stepson. Bret is given a ticket and Ashley is subsequently driven home by her mother and teased by Mike.

Wade, the Mayor of Prosperity, is holding a town meeting in the mall (which is ironically placed, seeing as few people live in the town) about whether they should sell the mines and relocate. Chris McCormick, whose father owned the mines before he died ten years ago, shows up and stands against Wade’s proposition. Chris also sparks a romance with Sam.

Mike sneaks out on foot and finds Joshua and the spiders missing, although he sees an enormous spider shadow in the mines and tells Chris that the spiders have grown to enormous sizes, based on a giant spider leg he found at the mine entrance, as well as Joshua’s web-laden boot. Chris is understandably skeptical despite the evidence. Meanwhile the mines have reopened with the miners searching for a famous gold load, dismissed by many as a myth seeing as the witness of this gold was a dying man, McCormick’s father. They are soon consumed by the orb weaver family, who have made the mines their home. Seeing as the entire town is connected in some way to the mines, spiders show up in many different places. Pete’s cat is eaten by a growing specimen (though from the imprints made on the wall the cat puts up a good fight against the spider), some ostriches from Wade’s private ostrich farm are eaten by large trapdoor spiders, and Chris’ skepticism is overcome when his Aunt Gladys and her dog are abducted by a male orb weaver in her basement. He also finds an even bigger leg. Ashley breaks up with Bret, who soon after witnesses his entire motorcycle gang being attacked and killed by jumping spiders, with himself surviving after fleeing into the mines. Sheriff Sam Parker is also skeptical, and is convinced Chris and Mike are delusional. However, her skepticism fades when she witnesses a giant spider attempting to abduct Ashley in her room. The spider is shot, but the threat enlarges as Mike concludes that the spiders come out at night to feed, and the whole town is in danger.

Sam contacts Pete and tells him to bring all guns in the police station’s possession and, after a scuffle with some jumping spiders, they travel to the trailer of an eccentric UFO enthusiast named Harlan (Doug E. Doug), knowing he has a radio station that he operates from within his trailer. As Sam broadcasts the threat over the radio with Harlan standing by in disbelief, a giant tarantula assaults the trailer. As the town listens to the broadcast, they at first scoff because of Harlan’s reputation, but soon hear the screams of the people within the trailer as the tarantula overturns it. They escape as the arachnid struggles to its eight feet. As the town is assaulted by vicious spiders, Sam tells everybody to get to the mall because it has concrete walls and steel doors. The mayor, who happens to be near the mall seems to be happy that everyone is coming to his mall, but this joy is replaced with terror once he learns the reason. The main characters make it in safely, and the children and wounded people are told to go down to the basement as the able-bodied townsfolk hold off the spiders. Wade sneaks into the mines and encounters Bret before being abducted by orb weavers. Meanwhile, Harlan and Chris climb onto the roof and ascend the radio mast and try to get a signal to call the police, but are believed to be pranksters and are forced to fend for themselves. Harlan jumps from the roof after the tarantula breaks open the gates and lets the spiders enter the mall and lands in some bushes, where he meets up with Pete. The two run from spiders as Chris meets up with Sam Parker and goes down to the basement with the remaining townsfolk. Ashley is reunited with Bret, who finds Wade and frees him. Chris expresses his love for Sam, then goes to look for his Aunt Gladys in the mines. He finds Gladys and the gold his father was searching for, but is confronted by a massive Consuela. He uses Bret’s motorcycle to escape, and blows up the spiders and the mines utilizing Gladys’ smoking addiction and the high concentrations of methane gas. The police finally arrive (brought by Pete and Harlan) after the danger has subsided. They had not believed the stories of the spiders, but came to investigate the screaming that had ended up going over the airwaves. The authorities end up believing Harlan’s alternate story of invading extraterrestrials.

As the story ends, Harlan is heard making a radio report about the spiders. He concludes that the town has decided to cover up the whole incident, but have let Harlan continue broadcasting the incident, knowing nobody will believe him. He also mentions Chris reopening the gold mines and putting everyone back to work, but tells us “that is another story altogether.” As the camera pans in on his mouth, it is clear that he now has three gold teeth.

REVIEW:

I’m a little pressed for time, so please excuse the crudity and shortness of the review.

This is not as bad a film as critics want you to believe, but at the same time, it’s not the best either. It’s just what you would expect from a horror comedy.

The cast isn’t bad. Scarlett Johnasson showed even at this younger age how talented and hot she would be. I don’t think David Arquette should have been the lead, though. He just doesn’t work for me. Maybe its because of his previous work, but I’m not sure.

The spiders, I thought, were pretty cool. I’m sure those out there with (or that have seen) Arachnophobia nearly wet themselves if they even bother to watch this. Not really sure why people are so scared of spiders, but I guess if giant spiders were running all over the place, I’d be a little freaked out, myself.

Best thing I can say about this film, though, is that it knows what it is, but at the same time it pushes the envelope towards becoming a serious horror flick. Some may say that is its downfall, but I actually liked it, for this particular film. Not saying that every movie needs to go out and do the same, though.

Unless you’re scared of spiders, or can’t stand David Arquette, you should enjoy this film. Trust me, the posters and artwork advertising it don’t do it justice and make it seem like a silly comedy which it most definitely is not. Don’t believe me, watch and see for yourself.

3 out of 5 stars

The Wolf Man

Posted in Classics, Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 28, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Larry Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.) returns to his ancestral home in Llanwelly, Wales to reconcile with his father, Sir John Talbot (Claude Rains). While there, Larry becomes romantically interested in a local girl named Gwen Conliffe (Evelyn Ankers), who runs an antique shop. As a pretext, he buys something from her, a silver-headed walking stick decorated with a wolf. Gwen tells him that it represents a werewolf (which she defines as a man who changes into a wolf “at certain times of the year”.)

Throughout the film, various villagers recite a poem that all the locals apparently know, whenever the subject of werewolves comes up:

Even a man who is pure in heart
and says his prayers by night
may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms
and the autumn moon is bright.

That night, Larry attempts to rescue Gwen’s friend Jenny from what he believes to be a sudden attack by a wolf. He kills the beast with his new walking stick, but is bitten in the process. He soon discovers that it was not just a wolf; it was a werewolf, and now Talbot has become one. A gypsy fortuneteller named Maleva (Maria Ouspenskaya) reveals to Larry that the animal which bit him was actually her son Bela (Bela Lugosi) in the form of a wolf. Bela had been a werewolf for years and now the curse of lycanthropy has been passed to Larry.

Sure enough, Talbot prowls the countryside in the form of a two-legged wolf. Struggling to overcome the curse, he is finally bludgeoned to death by his father with his own walking stick. As he dies, he returns to human form.

REVIEW:

Someone once called the wolfman “the runt of the horror monsters”. This was no doubt referring to his legacy compared to the likes of Dracula, Frankenstein, etc. I can’t deny that, but I can say that I believe this film is underrated, especially when you consider the major stars that are in the cast.

The myth and lore of the wolfman tends to be different with every werewolf incarnation, but I believe that The Wolf Man is the original (on film, anyway).

Lon Chaney, Jr. was apparently a very talented actor, so for him to be reduced, for lack of a better word, to a growling, snarling beast, and have such a legacy etched in cinematic history is no surprise. As a werewolf, though, we don’t really see him until the last half hour of the film. I have issue with that. It is my belief that they could have taken out some of the unnecessary dialogue and replaced it with the wolf hunting, but that’s just me.

Claude Rains is the consummate professional as he portrays Sir Talbot. His best scene, though, may be one at the end where he doesn’t speak, but the expression on his face says it all.

With the mixture of all sorts of mythology and religions going on in this flick, I’m surprised that it was allowed to be released, given the time period its from. That could just be my assumption, though.

There’s nothing like a classic horror film. Although this isn’t the scariest picture you’ll ever see, even by 1940s standards, its still pretty good, and a good intro into the werewolf lore. If not for this film, all subsequent werewolves (in just about any media) probably would not exist, so why not see where they all came from?

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

The Thing From Another World

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

PLOT:

A U.S. Air Force re-supply crew is officially dispatched by Gen Fogerty (David McMahon) from Anchorage, Alaska at the unusual request of Dr. Carrington (Robert Cornthwaite), the chief researcher of a group of scientists working at a remote base in the Arctic, Polar Expedition Six. They have evidence that an aircraft of some kind has crashed nearby. The crew takes along Scotty (Douglas Spencer), a reporter and former war correspondent, who is at the base in search of a story. A minor sub-plot involves a romance between the commanding officer, Captain Patrick Hendry (Kenneth Tobey) and Carrington’s secretary, Nikki Nicholson (Margaret Sheridan).

After being briefed by Dr Carrington, including high speed photos by Dr Redding (George Fenneman), Hendry’s crew and the scientists land at the crash site. They are shocked to discover that the shape of the craft is round—a flying saucer—with an airfoil of some sort protruding from the surface. They all agree to free it from the ice with thermite heat explosives, but in doing so, accidentally destroy the craft. However, the crew chief (Dewey Martin) has a geiger counter and locates a body nearby frozen in the ice.

They excavate the tall body, preserving it in a large ice block and return to the research outpost as a major storm moves in, making communication with Anchorage very difficult. Some of the scientists want to thaw out the creature immediately, but Hendry orders everyone to wait until he receives orders from Air Force authorities. Feeling uneasy guarding the body, Cpl Barnes (William Self) covers the ice block with a blanket, not realizing it is an electric blanket, and the creature thaws out, revives and escapes to the outside cold.

The creature is attacked by sled dogs, and the scientists recover an arm, bitten off by the dogs. They examine the arm and as it warms and ingests the blood from one of the dogs, it begins to come back to life. They learn that, while appearing humanoid, the creature is in fact an advanced form of plant life. Dr. Carrington is convinced that the creature can be reasoned with, but Dr Chapman (John Dierkes) and a few collegues disagree. The Air Force men are just as sure it cannot be reasoned with and may be dangerous. But Carrington soon realizes that the creature requires human blood to reproduce.

Carrington later discovers the hidden body of a sled dog, drained of blood, in the greenhouse. He has volunteers from his own team, Dr Olsen and Dr Auerbach, to stand guard overnight, waiting for the creature’s return.

Later, Carrington secretly uses plasma from the infirmary to incubate and nourish seedlings he has taken from the arm, failing to advise his colleagues or Capt Hendry of what he has done, or of the now-dead bodies of Olsen and Auerbach, drained of blood. Dr Stern (Eduard Franz) is almost killed, but escapes to warn the others. Nikki reluctantly updates Hendry when he asks about missing plasma. Hendry confronts Carrington, where he sees that the creature’s planted seed pods have grown at a tremendous rate — and need blood. Dr Wilson (Everett Glass) advises Carrington that he hasn’t slept, but Carrington is unconcerned. The creature returns and the USAF crew, after failing to affect it with firearms, trap it in the greenhouse. The scientists soon realize that the wounded creature will need more blood, and that it will not be confined for long.

Nikki notes that the temperature inside the station is dropping quickly, and Hendry relates that it’s probably due to a cut fuel line. The creature soon escapes and breaks back into the camp. But Captain Hendry and his men, following a suggestion from Nikki about how to deal with vegetables, set it alight with kerosene and it flees into the night.

The cold forces the scientists and the airmen to make a final stand in the generator room. The crew chief suggests that electricity is hotter than flaming kerosene, and they immediately create a walkway trap for the creature using high voltage electricity on overhead leads as a weapon. The group carries anything they can use to defend themselves. Lt McPherson (Robert Nichols) wonders aloud if the creature can read their minds. Lt Dykes (James R. Young), carrying a pickaxe comments, “He’ll be real mad when he gets to me”. As the creature advances on them, Carrington twice tries to stop the creature’s demise; once by shutting off the power, and the second by running out onto the trap and trying to reason with the creature. He fails and the creature throws him aside to suffer a minor injury.

The creature is electrocuted, shrinking to a husk as it is killed. Its seedlings are also destroyed. As the film closes, Hendry and Nikki are set to become engaged as Scotty files his “story of a lifetime” by radio, imploring his listeners to “Watch the skies!”

REVIEW:

I just watched this film for the first time this afternoon and have to say that for the first time. I was not impressed with a classic film. Maybe it was the high expectations I had for it, since it is a classic sci-fi film, but it just didn’t deliver.

For the most part, this picture is just flat out boring. I hate to use those words when describing a film in this genre, but its true. For a film that is about an hour and a half, it takes almost an hour to get anything going. Citizen Kane has more exciting things going on the same span of time, which is quite sad.

The film focuses exclusively on the military personnel at an Alaskan outpost. I can’t recall what they are doing up there, but the decision to focus on them is not necessarily a bad thing, per se, but for the most part this felt like a military propaganda movie by their choice to do so.

James Arness, of Gunsmoke fame, plays the monster (who is only on-screen for maybe a total of 5 minutes).I don’t have any criticism for his performance, but there isn’t enough of it there to critique in a positive or negative way.

I wish I could say that I loved this film and that you should rush out and see it, but that would make me a liar. I was dozing off as I sat and watched this. It was quite painful. No, this isn’t the worst movie ever made, but it isn’t that great. See it if you must, but keep in mind, its not that great.

2 out of 5 stars

Practical Magic

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 26, 2009 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The Owens women are witches in whom the Craft has been passed down through every generation into modern times. The story concerns sisters Frances (Stockard Channing) and Jet (Dianne Wiest), and their orphaned nieces Gillian (Nicole Kidman) and Sally (Sandra Bullock). The Owens family is cursed: if an Owens woman finds true love with a man, he will die tragically, as was the case with the father of Gillian and Sally, whose death also brought on their mother’s death “from a broken heart,” which can be understood as suicide. As a child, Sally casts a true love spell to protect her. She dreams up a series of odd traits for the man of her dreams, confident no real man could ever be like the man in her spell, preventing her from ever falling in love.

The sisters grow up, and Gillian runs away as she is impatient with small town life. Packing her bags and leaving at night, they cast a binding oath to each other using blood from both of their hands and then mixing the bloods by clasping hands. Without Gillian around, Sally feels lonely and craves a normal life. Her aunts, wanting her to be happy, cast a spell that helps Sally fall in love with a man named Michael. Sally marries him and has two daughters, Kylie (Evan Rachel Wood) and Antonia (Alexandra Artrip). When Michael falls victim to the curse and dies, Sally and her daughters return to the Owens home to live with the aunts.

When Gillian’s latest boyfriend Jimmy (Goran Višnjić) turns abusive, she calls Sally for help. Sally goes to collect Gillian, but Jimmy kidnaps both of them. Sally puts belladonna into Jimmy’s tequila to knock him out, but she uses too much and accidentally kills him. The panicked sisters attempt to resurrect him using a forbidden spell from their aunts’ book of spells. The spell works, but when Jimmy is revived, Sally is forced to kill him a second time to stop him from killing Gillian. The sisters bury his body in the Owens home garden, where they hope nobody will notice, but his spirit begins to haunt them.

A State Investigator named Gary Hallett (Aidan Quinn) arrives in town looking for Jimmy. Gillian prepares a banishment spell using the syrup from their table to get rid of Gary, but Sally’s daughters thwart the spell when they notice that Gary fulfills a number of conditions of Sally’s true love spell. Sally confesses that she killed Jimmy, and that she cast a spell to summon Gary to her. Gary has an encounter with Jimmy’s ghost, and decides to leave town without arresting Sally.

Jimmy possesses Gillian, and the aunts decide that in order to dispel Jimmy, a coven needs to be formed (nine women, “twelve’s better”). Sally is forced to ask the aid of townswomen who had feared and excluded her. The women come out of curiosity and a desire to help. The exorcism is a success due to the strong bond between the two sisters; Jimmy’s spirit is dispelled and the 300-year-old curse of the Owens women is ended, when Sally repeats the spell that was mentioned as Gillian first left, by clasping their hands to mix each others blood once more. It brought Gillian back.

Sally receives a letter from Gary that she and her sister are cleared of any suspicion or wrongdoing in Jimmy’s case. Gary eventually returns to the town to be with Sally. The Owens women, daughters and all celebrate All Hallows Eve dressed up in stereotypical witch costumes, but they are embraced and welcomed by the townsfolk.

REVIEW:

Witches living in a small town, eh? Lemme guess, the townspeople are crazy paranoid and there is some sort of curse about them, right? Yeah, that pretty much covers most of Practical Magic.  Then you throw in the whole dead guy who won’t go away and you’ve got it all.

Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman play the Owens sisters, two witches who, after their parents’ deaths went to live with their aunts. while living there, they learned how to use their magic. Gilly (Kidman) decides to leave when she gets older, while Sally (Bullock) stays behind.

Both Bullock and Kidman show why they are such accomplished actresses, especially Kidman. Sally is the typical character that Sandra Bullock plays, insecure, conservative, a little frumpy, etc. Somehow, this works for her, despite it not being her natural personality. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Kidman’s Gilly is full of rebellious spirit. It is that spirit that gets her into trouble and leads to the plot of the movie.

The sisters accidentally kill Gilly’s boyfriend and then try to bring him back to life, which as anyone with common sense will tell you, is never a good thing. turns out that he becomes some sort of ghostlike form and possesses her, prompting Sally and the aunts to form a coven with some townswomen so that he can be excised. During this exorcism, Kidman shows a flair for convulsions that we had not seen from her before, and haven’t seen from her since.

Diane Wiest and Stockard Channing portray the aunts. There aprts are not big, but they are crucial to the story. Similar in a way that Hilda and Zelda were always thay for Sabrina in Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, it appears that these aunts perform the same task. Channing seems to have some sort of southern accent. She actually puts me in the mind of Ouiza.

Aside from the witchcraft and exorcism, there is a bit of a tragic love story to be found in the convoluted film. The detective that is investigating the case makes a trip out from Arizona and meets Sally, who apparently had cast a spell when she was younger that was meant to bring a guy with one blue eye and one green eye to her. There are some sparks that fly between the two, but there is also that air of mystery about did he really come because she cast that spell or because of his own free will.

I kind of liked this film, but, like many others that have watched it, I felt a bit confused as to what was realy going on. The tone of the picture is a problem. I’m on of those people that has no isseue with mixing genres, but make sure you establish your major category first. Practical Magic fails to do that, and as a result becomes a lesser film than it could be. There is so much potential here for this to be a great picture, but it just doesn’t deliver anything more than just an above average picture that mostly appeals to women and those into witchcraft. Such a shame!

3 out of 5 stars

First Knight

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

PLOT:

The film’s opening text establishes that King Arthur of Camelot, victorious from his wars, has dedicated his reign to promoting justice and peace and now wishes to marry. However, Malagant, a Knight of the Round Table, desires the throne for himself and rebels.

The movie opens with Lancelot, a vagabond and skilled swordsman, dueling in small villages for money. Lancelot attributes his skill to his lack of concern whether he lives or dies. Guinevere, the ruler of Leonesse, decides to marry Arthur partly out of admiration and partly for security against Malagant, who is shown raiding a village. While traveling, Lancelot chances by Guinevere’s carriage on the way to Camelot, and helps spoil Malagant’s ambush meant to kidnap her. He falls in love with Guinevere, who refuses his advances. Though Lancelot urges her to follow her heart, Guinevere remains bound by her duty. She is subsequently reunited with her escort.

Later, Lancelot arrives in Camelot and successfully navigates an obstacle course on the prospect of a kiss from Guinevere, though he instead kisses her hand. He also wins an audience with her husband-to-be, Arthur. Impressed by Lancelot’s courage and struck by his recklessness and freewheeling, Arthur shows him the Round Table which symbolizes a life of service and brotherhood. Guinevere is subsequently kidnapped by Malagant’s followers and imprisoned in an oubliette. Lancelot poses as a messenger to Malagant only to escape with Guinevere and return her to Camelot. Once again, Lancelot tries to win her heart, but is unsuccessful. On the return journey, it is revealed that Lancelot was orphaned and rendered homeless after bandits attacked his village, and has been wandering ever since.

In gratitude, Arthur offers Lancelot a higher calling in life as a Knight of the Round Table. Amidst the protests of the other Knights (who are suspicious of his station), and of Guinevere (who struggles with her feelings for him), Lancelot accepts and takes Malagant’s place at the Table, saying he has found something to care about. Arthur and Guinevere are subsequently wedded. However, a messenger from Leonesse arrives, with news that Malagant has invaded. Arthur leads his troops to Leonesse and successfully defeats Malagant’s forces. Lancelot wins the respect of the other Knights with his prowess in battle. He also learns to embrace Arthur’s philosophy, moved by the plight of villagers.

Lancelot feels guilty about his feelings for the queen and in private announces his departure to her. She grants him a kiss, which turns into a passionate embrace, just in time for the king to interrupt. Though Guinevere claims to love both Arthur and Lancelot – albeit in different ways – the two are charged with treason. The open trial in the great square of Camelot is interrupted by a surprise invasion by Malagant, ready to burn Camelot and kill Arthur if he does not swear fealty. Instead Arthur commands his subjects to fight, and Malagant’s men shoot him with crossbows. A battle between Malagant’s men and Camelot’s soldiers and citizens ensues, and Lancelot and Malagant face off. Disarmed, Lancelot seizes Arthur’s fallen sword and kills Malagant. The people of Camelot win the battle, but Arthur dies of his wounds. On his deathbed, he asks Lancelot to “take care of her for me” – a double entendre referring to both Camelot and Guinevere. The movie closes with a funeral raft carrying Arthur’s body floating out to sea, which is set aflame.

REVIEW:

Medieval times are probably my third favorite era in history, possibly second on film. I’m not the type to dress up and head to Ren-Fairs or anything, but I do like a few things from that period in time. One of these things is the legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.

Lancelot is hands down, one ofthe most popular of Arthur’s knights. Richard Gere brings him to the screen in a way that mnay of the legends tend to forget, and that is he makes him a bot of a rouge looking for his way in the world.

Julia Ormond is great as Lady Guinevere. Her beauty is matched only by her talent. This is not an easy character to play, and she does so flawlessly.

Sean Connery lives for roles such as this, but I have to wonder if he ever tires of playing Arthur or King Richard. It seems like he’s always one or the other in these films. Having said that, this is one of the few times where he actually gets to star, rather than cameo as Arthur.

I don’t know much abpit Malagant, but apparently he is a very important part in the Arthurian legends. This film does a good job of bringing him to the knowledge of people like me who don’t know about him.

Camelot looks beautiful in this film. Its the kind of place you definitely wanted to live in back then, and may even still want to live there today. The set the used, or castle they found is breathtaking.

There are two major fight scenes in this film. The first is Lancelot saving Guinevere from Malagant’s clutches and shows off his stunt double’s skills. The second is the climactic battle for Camelot. For such an epic battle, I kind of felt a little let down, but it was still pretty good.

This film could have gone one of two ways. There was the action route, which they focus on here and there and there’s the drama angle which they use for a good chunk of the film. As good as this film is, I think it would have been better served as an action picture than a drama. Still, the dramatic parts are pretty good, mainly because of two of the most talented actors of our time, Richard Gere and Sean Connery. This, mixed with the very well choreographed fight scenes make for a very entertaining picture.

4 out of 5 stars