Archive for February, 2010

The Monster Squad

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2010 by Mystery Man


The Monster Squad is a society of young pre-teens who idolize classic monsters and monster movies. In addition to a clubhouse in a tree, they actually have their own business cards. Club leader Sean (Andre Gower), whose five-year-old sister Phoebe (Ashley Bank) desperately wants to join the club, is given the diary of legendary vampire hunter Abraham Van Helsing (Jack Gwillim) – but his excitement is somewhat toned down when he finds it’s written in German. Sean, his best friend Patrick (Robby Kiger), and the rest of the Monster Squad get their local “Scary German Guy” (Leonardo Cimino) to translate the diary. (When he is asked how he knows so much, he tells them cryptically that he has “some experience with monsters.” When the children leave his home and he closes the front door, a concentration-camp number tattoo is revealed on his forearm.)

The diary describes, in great detail, an amulet that is composed of concentrated good. One day out of every century, as the forces of good and evil reach a balance, the otherwise-indestructible amulet becomes vulnerable to destruction. The next day of balance falls within a couple days, at the stroke of midnight.

The kids realize they must gain possession of the amulet before the day of balance arrives; once they have the amulet, the kids can use it — with an incantation from Van Helsing’s diary — to open a hole in the universe and cast the monsters into Limbo. As shown in the prelude, van Helsing had unsuccessfully attempted this one hundred years ago in order to defeat his old adversary Count Dracula; he subsequently hid the amulet in America, where it was out of Dracula’s immediate reach. Dracula, meanwhile, must obtain the amulet before the Monster Squad does, so that the Count can take control of the world. To this end he assembles several monstrous allies: Frankenstein’s monster, a werewolf (an unwilling participant in his human form), a mummy, and an amphibious gill-man, in addition to three young women (Mary Albee, Joan-Carrol Baron, and Julie Merrill) whom the Count transforms into his vampiric consorts. The next day, Frankenstein’s monster is wandering in the forest where he encounters Phoebe. Rather than being afraid, she shows him the kindness he has also sought, and he get acquainted with and becomes a member of the Monster Squad.

The amulet turns out to be buried in a stone room, under a house that Dracula and the other monsters now occupy. The aforementioned room is littered with holy symbols, including crucifixes, which prevent the monsters from simply taking it. However, once removed from its secure location, nothing stands in the way of Dracula taking it. The German Guy informs them that the incantation must be read by a female virgin on holy ground, on which neither Dracula nor any of his minions can set foot. As midnight approaches, the Squad makes their way to a local cathedral — and in the nick of time, as shortly after they leave, Dracula destroys their clubhouse with a stick of dynamite. This also calls up another helper for the Monster Squad: Sean’s father, Police Detective Del, who has been charged to investigate the strange happenings in town off late (as caused by Dracula’s cohorts) but has been quite skeptical about their supernatural causes, not to mention Sean’s hobby, in the first place.

Unfortunately, the doors to the cathedral are locked, so the incantation must be read on the stoop, leaving them vulnerable. The Monster Squad has the assistance of Sean’s father and Patrick’s older sister (Lisa Fuller), as she’s the only virgin they know who speaks German. Unfortunately, with time winding down, the incantation fails. Lisa reveals that she is not only failing German, but is also no longer a virgin. As Dracula’s Brides and the other monsters close in, it is realized that Phoebe, being five, must still be a virgin, and the German Guy attempts to help her read the incantation as the rest of the squad fends off the monsters.

In the ensuing battle, the vampiresses, the Mummy, the Gill-Man, and the Wolf-Man (who reverts to human form after being shot with a silver bullet by Rudy, thanking him for ending his suffering) are killed. Dracula arrives and stuns the German Guy. He is about to kill Phoebe when the Frankenstein Creature betrays him, impaling him on a wrought-iron fence. Phoebe finishes the incantation, opening the portal which begins to consume the bodies of the monsters. Dracula, still alive, attempts to drag Sean in with him, but Sean is saved at the last minute by his father and Van Helsing, who escaped from limbo to capture Dracula. Although Phoebe tries tearfully to hold onto him, Frankenstein’s Creature is the last to be sucked through the portal, which closes, ensuring the world’s safety.


I guess I should have known there wasn’t going to be much to this thing when the biggest name to come up in the opening credits was Jason Hervey, best known as the big brother from The Wonder Years. Believe it or not, the film didn’t get much better after that.

I think my opinion of this is more related to expectation rather than reality, but I was highly disappointed in what I saw this afternoon. I mean, I wasn’t expecting anything too special, but for some reason, I thought this would be more on the level on The Goonies, but instead of searching for treasure, they were fighting monsters. Maybe that would have been a better idea that what this mess was.

The good…the wolf-man. Plain and simple, he’s the only character worth mentioning, to be honest. The filmmakers decided to go more with a Jekyll & Hyde version of the werewolf, and it worked. We on;y get to see him transform. No, it isn’t on par with some other werewolf transformations seen on camera, but it’s far being one of the worst.

The bad…look, if I sit here and list everything bad about this picture, we’ll be here until the cows come home, but the major wrongs are a bad story/script, special effects that look like they were bought out of a gumball machine (which is bad…even for the 80s), and actors that don’t sell their characters.

I know there are thousands out there that have made this a cult classic. Many of them are likely to hunt me down for not loving this flick, but I just can’t bring myself to do so. Often times there are bad films that are so bad, they’re good. This is one of those that is so bad it is bad. I can’t belive they actually wasted the time restoring it and putting it on DVD. There are so many other better films that those resources could have been used on. Don’t waste your time with this one, unless you’re a fan.

2 out of 5 stars

(500) Days of Summer

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Independent, Movie Reviews, Romantic with tags , , , , , , , on February 28, 2010 by Mystery Man


On January 8, Tom Hansen meets Summer Finn, the new assistant to his boss. Tom trained as an architect but works as a writer at a greeting card company, living in Los Angeles. Following a karaoke night, Tom’s co-worker, McKenzie, lets slip that Tom is attracted to Summer. Over the next few months Summer and Tom grow closer, despite Summer making it clear to Tom that she does not believe in true love, and does not want a boyfriend.

Tom shows Summer his favorite spot in the city, which looks out over a number of buildings he likes, although the view is spoiled by parking lots. After several months dating, Tom gets into a fight with a guy chatting up Summer, and they have their first argument. On day 290, Summer and Tom split up after they see The Graduate, a film which Tom thinks shows true love. Tom does not take the break up well, and Tom’s friends call his younger sister, Rachel, to calm him down.

Summer quits the greeting card company. Tom’s boss moves him to the consolations department, as his depression is not suitable for happier events. Months later, as Summer and Tom attend the wedding of a co-worker, they dance at the wedding and Summer catches the bouquet. They sit next to each other on the journey home and Summer invites Tom to a party at her apartment. Tom attends the party and sees that Summer is wearing an engagement ring. Realizing what is being celebrated, he leaves the party. Tom enters a deep depression, only leaving his apartment for alcohol and junk food. After a few days, he returns to work hungover and quits his job. He sets about re-applying himself to architecture, makes a list of firms, and begins to attend interviews.

On day 488, Summer sees Tom at his favorite spot in the city and they talk. Tom states his lack of understanding towards her actions but ultimately, wishes Summer well. Twelve days later, on Wednesday, May 23, he attends a job interview and meets a girl, who is also applying for the same job. Before entering the interview, he makes a date to have coffee with her afterward. He asks her for her name, and she replies, “Autumn”.


I read somewhere that this was a romantic comedy for those that don’t care for romantic comedies. I can’t argue that opinion.

(500) Days of Summer has lots of good moments and a few bad ones, so it is no surprise that this was on almost everyone’s top 10 of ’09 list.

The good…my personal feelings for my future wife, Zooey Deschanel aside, she is the main reason to watch this picture. Sure, she’s playing the same, quirky character who emphasizes her individuality like she always does, but hey, whatever works, right? I like how they go back and forth through her relationship with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and show the number of days and such. What really struck me was that if you look at the graphic, the happier moments have a happier, green color to them, whereas the final days are blue and depressing looking. Deschanel and Levitt make a cute couple and that helps more than you’d think. The film moves about at a pretty nice pace, which is a plus because there are so many romantic comedies that start off at light speed, then hit some kind of bump and never recover.

The bad…I didn’t care for the best friend. As much as I love Zooey, I would like to see her play a different character at least once. Minka Kelly’s appearance at the end is nice, don’t get me wrong, she is beyond hot, but the fact that she was named Autumn was just too much.

It isn’t often that a romantic comedy comes along that takes the point of vie of the guy. Usually these things are all about some overly emotional woman, her bitchy friends, and how they brainwash her into all but losing the guy, only to get him back in the last minutes of the film. (500) Days of Summer doesn’t flip the script, but does give you the early impression it is going to go down that road, only it takes a sharp turn just before it goes into formulaic territory. While doing that turn, it becomes a refreshing, original film (based on a book) that captivates us all.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , on February 27, 2010 by Mystery Man


Doctor Henry John Albert Jekyll’s lawyer and best friend John Utterson is introduced, speaking of past events concerning Doctor Jekyll, followed by Jekyll’s future father-in-law, Sir Danvers Carew.

Jekyll is seen in an insane asylum singing over his comatose father (“Lost in the Darkness”). It is Jekyll’s belief that the evil in his father’s soul has caused his illness. Jekyll sings about his passion to find out why man is both good and evil and his attempts to separate the good from the evil (“I Need to Know”).

Leaving the hospital, the rich and poor of 19th century London describe how people act how they want others to see them, no matter who they really are inside (“Facade”). Afterward, Jekyll presents a research proposal to the Board of Governors of St. Jude’s Hospital.

In attendance are Sir Danvers (the chairman of the board), Rupert the 14th Bishop of Basingstoke, the Right Honorable Sir Archibald “Archie” Proops, Lord Theodore “Teddy” Savage, Lady Elizabeth “Bessie” Beaconsfield and General Lord Glossop as well as Simon Stride (the secretary).

All, with the exception of Danvers, are pompous, rich semi-hypocrites. They reject Jekyll’s proposal to experiment on a living human with cries of “blasphemy, heresy, and lunacy,” voting five to none with Sir Danvers’ one abstention (“Jekyll’s Plea”).

Utterson tries to calm Jekyll down, knowing that he was obsessed over his father’s conditions. Jekyll feels that he could “save” those who have fallen in the same darkness. Utterson urges his friend, if he feels he is right about his theory, that he should continue. (“Pursue The Truth”).

Later that night, the toast of society turns up at Sir Danvers’ home, where he is throwing an engagement party for his daughter Emma’s engagement to Dr. Jekyll (“Facade – Reprise 1”).

During the party, the guests, which include the Board of Governors and Stride, mention how worried they are about Emma being engaged to a “madman.” Stride speaks to Emma in private and tries to reason her out of her engagement, but she quickly turns him down (“Emma’s Reason”).

Jekyll — late as usual — arrives to the party just as everyone is leaving, and he and Emma share a moment (“Take Me as I Am”). Danvers returns as Jekyll leaves, and expresses to Emma that he likes Jekyll but finds it difficult to tolerate his behavior (“Letting Go”).

Jekyll and Utterson later go to a dingy pub known as theRed Rat for Jekyll’s bachelor party (“Facade – Reprise 2”). Lucy Harris, a bar worker and prostitute arrives late and is in for some trouble with the boss, known as “the Spider”, but she dismisses it for now.

Despite her position in life, she is seen to be kind-hearted and well-liked by her co-workers, but has moments of contemplation about her life (“No One Knows Who I Am”).

Guinevere, the German manageress of the Red Rat, then breaks Lucy’s reverie and then sends the former out onstage to do her number (“Bring on the Men” – replaced with “Good ‘n’ Evil” in the Broadway version), which captivates Jekyll.

After the show, Lucy begins to circulate among the clientèle. Spider approaches Lucy and strikes her hard across the face and demands to know why she was late. And even though Spider says that there will be dire consequences if it ever happens again.

Jekyll approaches Lucy after witnessing the Spider’s actions and intends to help her as Utterson is led away by another bar girl. Jekyll and Lucy are drawn to each other in a way that promises each of them a great friendship.

Jekyll admits Lucy’s song has helped him find the answer to his experiment. Utterson reemerges and Jekyll admits that he must be on his way. Before he goes, he gives Lucy his visiting card and asks her to see him should she ever need anything.

As Utterson and Jekyll return to the upper-class section of the city, Utterson notices that Jekyll is in a better mood. Jekyll informs him that he has found a subject for his experiments. Utterson recommends Jekyll to go straight to bed and leaves.

Jekyll asks his butler, Poole, about his father, and Poole replies that he was a very good man. After reacting happily to the kind remark, Jekyll dismisses him for the night.

Ignoring Utterson’s advice, Jekyll proceeds to his lab, excited that the moment has come to do his experiment (“This is the Moment”). Keeping tabs on the experiment in his journal, Jekyll mixes his chemicals to create his formula, HJ7, and injects it into the subject: himself.

After a minute of the potion’s side effects, he writhes in pain, transforming into an evil form of himself (“Transformation”). He goes out and roams the streets, taking in the sights and sounds of London, including an encounter with Lucy. He gives himself a name: Edward Hyde (“Alive”).

A week later, no one has heard anything from Jekyll. Emma, Sir Danvers and Utterson ask Poole where he is, but Emma decides to leave and believes Jekyll will come for her after his work is finished. After Emma and Sir Danvers leave, Poole tells Utterson that Jekyll has been locked in his lab all this time and that he has heard strange sounds from the lab.

Jekyll, who seems distraught, emerges and sends Poole fetch some chemicals for him. Utterson confronts him asking him what he’s been up to, but Jekyll does not fully answer.

He gives Utterson three letters: one for Emma, another for her father, and one for Utterson himself should Jekyll become ill or disappear. Utterson tells Jekyll to not let his work take over (“His Work and Nothing More”).

Visiting card in hand, Lucy arrives at Jekyll’s house with a nasty bruise on her back. As Jekyll treats it, she tells him a man named Hyde did it. Jekyll is stunned by this revelation but hides it.

Obviously in love with him, Lucy kisses Jekyll (“Sympathy, Tenderness”). Disturbed by his own actions, Jekyll leaves Lucy, who sings about her love for him (“Someone Like You”).

Later, the Bishop of Basingstoke is seen with Guinevere after having a meeting with one of her attendants, who is a minor. He pays Guinevere and says he would like to see the attendant again on Wednesday.

When Guinevere and the attendant leave, Hyde appears holding a swordstick with a heavy pewter knob. After insulting the Bishop, Hyde proceeds to beat and stab the former to death with the swordstick before gleefully setting the body aflame (“Alive — Reprise”).

Utterson and Sir Danvers once more speak of past events with Jekyll: Utterson begins to feel he was not able to help his poor client and friend, while Danvers senses that something is horribly wrong with his work, as he has not been seen or heard from for weeks.

The people of London gossip about the Bishop’s murder in the newspaper headlines. The Carews, the four remaining Governors, Stride and Utterson attend the Bishop’s funeral at St. Paul’s Cathedral, unaware that Hyde is also present. After the funeral, General Glossop and Lord Savage leave St. Paul’s, mourning over their deceased colleague. Hyde corners Glossop and stabs the latter through the mouth with the swordstick while Teddy watches, petrified in horror. Stride quickly enters, just in time to see Hyde escape. As Londoners discuss the second murder, Jekyll is seen accosting the apothecary, Bisset, for the chemicals that Poole ordered. All but two are present, leaving Jekyll to wait until tomorrow night. Later one night, Teddy is seen leaving the Mayfair Club with Sir Proops and Lady Beaconsfield, joking about Archie not receiving a decent claret. Hyde emerges from the shadows and after recognizing him, Teddy attempts to get Bessie back inside. Hyde then comments on “how you hypocrites hang together.” Archie foolishly walks up to Hyde and demands that he leave. However, the former pulls out a dagger and stabs Archie in the side before snapping Bessie’s neck with her own diamond necklace. Teddy, after being forced to watch, escapes to report the events to the police. As the city reacts to the third and fourth murders, the Carews find a frantic Teddy at Victoria Station and learn that he is fleeing to Aberdeen. The Carews wish him a safe journey and return home. Hyde then appears, breaking Teddy’s neck and kicking his corpse onto the train tracks. By now, all five Governors who rejected Jekyll’s proposal are dead (“Murder, Murder”).

Emma lets herself into Jekyll’s laboratory. She finds his journal open and reads one of his entries. Jekyll enters and immediately closes the journal, preventing her from learning what he has become. Emma can see he is distraught. She professes her love for him and begs him to confide in her (“Once Upon a Dream”). He tells her nothing of his work, but says he still loves her.

After Emma leaves, Jekyll writes in his journal that Hyde has taken a heavy toll on him and those around him, and that the transformations are occurring without his taking the potion. His entry is interrupted when Utterson arrives at the lab, seeking to find out who Jekyll’s sole heir is, Edward Hyde, as referred to in Jekyll’s letter.

Jekyll only tells him that Hyde is a “colleague” involved in the experiment. Utterson can see that his friend and client is desperately ill and agrees to obtain the rest of the chemicals Jekyll requires. Jekyll, once again alone, begins to face the fact that Hyde is a part of him (“Obsession”). Lucy and Emma then wonder about their love for the same man (“In His Eyes”).

At the Red Rat, Guinevere and Lucy sing about their profession and why they keep doing it (“Girls of the Night”). Lucy is visited by Hyde, who tells her that he is going away for a while. He then warns her to never leave him — “ever”.

Lucy is terrified, but seems to be held under a sexual, animalistic control by Hyde (“Dangerous Game”). As they leave together, Spider addresses the Red Rat attendants, warning them to always be aware of what dangers lie ahead (“Facade – Reprise 3”).

Utterson comes to Jekyll’s lab with the rest of the chemicals and discovers Hyde, who informs him that the doctor is “not available” tonight. Utterson refuses to leave the package with anyone but his friend and demands to know where he is. Hyde replies that even if he told him, Utterson wouldn’t believe him.

When Utterson threatens him with his swordstick, Hyde injects the formula into himself, roaring with laughter as he transforms back into Jekyll in front of an appalled Utterson. Jekyll tells Utterson that Hyde must be destroyed, whatever the cost.

He then begs Utterson to deliver money for Lucy so she can escape to safety. As Utterson leaves, Jekyll mixes in chemicals and injects the new formula, praying that he can restore his former life (“The Way Back”).

Utterson visits Lucy at the Red Rat with the money, along with a letter from Jekyll that entreats her to leave town and start a new life elsewhere. After Utterson leaves, Lucy sings about the possibilities ahead (“A New Life”).

Just then, Hyde returns. Seeing the letter from Jekyll, he tells Lucy that he and the doctor are “very close.” As he holds Lucy softly so that she doesn’t suspect it, he slowly and savagely kills her (“Sympathy, Tenderness” – Reprise).

The vile murderer runs off laughing, just as the Red Rat attendants find Lucy’s stabbed form and carry her out on a stretcher.

Covered in blood from stabbing Lucy, Jekyll returns to his laboratory and faces off with Hyde in a final battle for control (“Confrontation”).

As Lucy’s corpse is being taken away, Utterson says that Jekyll has given up his task of “finding the truth,” condemning his father to the darkness. Yet, as Sir Danvers would put it, the doctor had returned at the sound of wedding bells (“Facade – Reprise 4”).

Several weeks later, Jekyll seems to have won as he and Emma stand before the priest at their wedding in St. Anne’s Church (“The Wedding” aka “Dear Lord and Father of Mankind”). As Jekyll is about to say “I do,” Hyde emerges, kills Stride, and takes Emma hostage.

At the sound of Emma’s pleading voice, Jekyll is able to regain momentary control. He begs Utterson to kill him, but Utterson cannot bring himself to harm his friend.

Desperate, Jekyll impales himself on Utterson’s swordstick. Emma weeps softly as Jekyll dies (“Finale”).


A friend of mine introduced me to the music of this musical a few months back by letting me listen to “In His Eyes”.  Since then, I’ve been curious as to what this production actually looks like. Tonight, I had the chance to at get some idea.

Let me preface this by saying that this is a stage production of the musical and not some film version. I belive they are on Broadway, but don’t quote me.

The good…the music is actually not half bad. I enjoyed it for the most part, with the exception of the oversaturation of “Facade”. David Hasslehoff surprised me. I know he’s big in Germany with his singing career, but here in the US, we’re not very familiar with it, and as a matter of fact, he’s the butt of jokes when it comes to such things. Having said that, hearing him belt out some of these songs floored me. The pacing of this thing is just right. What I mean by that is they don’t spend too long dragging out a scene or changing a set, but rather kep it going. Today’s audiences have too short an attention span to sit through a 4 hour musical the way they used to, as sad a fact as that is.

The bad…the sets could have been a bit more detailed and not looked like they were just a skeleton version of something yet to be finished. I don’t know if that was part of what they intended, but to me they seemed unfinished. Hasslehoff does a really good job, as I mentioned before, but his facial movements and poses often take away from the moment and tone of the songs he’s singing.

As far as musicals go, this one isn’t up there with the greats, but it is still pretty good. Sure, there are some things that could use some tweaking, but the same could be said of any and all musicals. Would I watch this again? Yes, if for nothing else that to get a definite, solid opinion about it. Do I recommend it to anyone? Sure, its a good watch, but if you’re not really into musicals, you’re not going to like it.

3 out of 5 stars

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 27, 2010 by Mystery Man


At the top of the Empire State Building, Poseidon (Kevin McKidd) meets with Zeus (Sean Bean), who comments that the storm clouds have no lightning and that his master bolt has been stolen. He blames Poseidon’s son for the theft. Despite Poseidon’s claims of his son’s innocence, Zeus gives Poseidon 14 days to return it, lest war break out.

During a field trip to an exhibition of Greek and Roman art, teenager Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman), is lured away from the crowd by a Fury disguised as his substitute English teacher, who then attacks him, questioning him about the lightning bolt. The incredulous Percy, who has no knowledge of this, is rescued by his Latin teacher, Mr. Brunner (Pierce Brosnan). After dispatching the Fury, Brunner gives Percy a magical pen. On Brunner’s instruction, Percy’s best friend, Grover (Brandon T. Jackson), takes Percy to a training camp for demigods, Camp Half-Blood, along with Percy’s mother, Sally Jackson (Catherine Keener). During their trip to the camp, Percy attempts to learn about his biological father from Sally, but they are attacked by a Minotaur. Although Percy and Grover, who is revealed to be a satyr, make it to the camp, its defenses prohibit entrance to Sally, who is captured by the Minotaur, and disappears before Percy. Percy engages the Minotaur with the magical pen, which turns into a sword named Riptide, eventually killing the creature with one of its horns.

In touring Camp Half-Blood, Percy learns that Brunner is the mythological centaur Chiron, and the camp’s trainer, and that his father is the god Poseidon. He also meets Luke Castellan (Jake Abel), the son of Hermes, and Annabeth Chase (Alexandra Daddario), the demigod daughter of Athena. While at the camp, Percy learns that water has the power to heal his injuries, and allows him to manifest his magical abilities.

Hades later appears and reveals that Sally Jackson is his prisoner, and proposes she be traded for the master bolt. Chiron instructs Percy not to bargain with the demon, but to go to Olympus to convince Zeus of his innocence. Percy sneaks away from the camp to travel to the Underworld, along with Grover and Annabeth, who secure for him from Luke a portable shield, flying shoes and a map to Persephone’s (Rosario Dawson) pearls, one of which will reveal the exit from the Underworld when retrieved.

At Aunty Em’s Garden Emporium, the trio are attacked by Medusa (Uma Thurman), but manage to decapitate her, and take the pearl from her bracelet. They also take her head, which they later successfully use against a hydra that attacks them during their acquisition of another pearl from the crown of a giant statue of Athena at the Parthenon replica in Nashville, Tennessee. They acquire the third and final pearl from a roulette wheel at a hotel casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, in part with help from Poseidon, who aids them against Lotus Eaters. The map reveals an entrance to the Underworld in Hollywood, California, beneath the Hollywood Sign.

The trio enter the Underworld, where, after traveling across the River Styx, they encounter Persephone, who takes them to Hades. Percy attempts to explain to Hades that he is not the lightning thief. During an ensuing melee, Percy drops his shield, whose handle conceals the missing master bolt, which Hades takes. However, the trio manage to reacquire it before escaping the Underworld with the rescued Sally. They are transported to the top of the Empire State Building, which they learn is the location to the entrance to Olympus. They are confronted by Luke, who reveals himself to have been the real lightning thief. Expressing his desire for a new generation of rulers to take over Olympus, he explains that he had hoped that the trio would not have escaped the Underworld alive, and after stealing the bolt from Percy, the two engage in battle. After using his water powers to dispatch Luke, Percy arrives in Olympus, where he presents the retrieved bolt, and reveals the truth about Luke. Poseidon explains to Percy the reason why they could not know each other during Percy’s childhood, but expresses his love for his son. Percy returns to Camp Half-Blood, where he resumes his training. After the end credits, a scene shows Sally forcing Gabe out of their apartment, and as he goes to get a beer from the fridge, opens it only to be turned to stone because Medusa’s unprotected eyes are staring right back at him.


I’ve always been fascinated with mythology, but with the release of this and the upcoming (unnecessary) remake of Clash of the Titans, as well as my recent addiction to the God of War games ($10 for both at Gamestop…what a steal…until I found out they can be bought together…lol), it has been ratcheted up.

In a manner similar to Harry Potter, I have yet to read these books, but I will be changing that before the next film is released.

When I saw the initial trailer for this film this summer, I didn’t know what to think or make of it, but when a more detailed one came out this fall, it made more sense and piqued my interest. After watching this afternoon, I must say it wasn’t too shabby, but not without its faults.

First of all, the story is pretty cool. Think about it, almighty Zeus has his lightning bolt stolen and automatically accuses Poseidon. Not quite sure why. Seems to me, the #1 culprit would be Hades, but maybe that would make too much sense. Sean Bean doesn’t scream Zeus to me. Sure, he has that medieval look about him and all, but not Zeus. He could have pulled of Poseidon or one of the other gods, but for Zeus, I envision an old guy with a booming voice and all that jazz.Of course, he could be described a different way in the books, so I’ll leave that alone.

Percy seems to be your typical teenager, for the most part. Angst ridden and all. I really wish Hollywood would stop with these Zac Efron look-alikes, though. They’re almost as bad as every actress in Hollywood that thinks they have to be super skinny and blonde . The character of Percy as the picture goes on, though, goes up and down. At one point he is confused, the next he’s cocky, the nest he feels the weight of the world on his shoulders. All this is well and good, except that I didn’t get these emotions from this kid.

The actress that plays Annabeth is quite beautiful. Megan Fox better look out, she has some competition. Seriously, as far as actual acting goes, she doesn’t have much to work with here, but she is a presence that is much needed and welcome, and you just know that somewhere down the line she and Percy are going to hook up. The tension is there and the foundation was laid in that final scene.

Steve Coogan as Hades…what can I say, but no. Um, this guy is a comedic actor. He seems like he was trying to channel a bit of James Woods’ Hades as well as sprinkle a bit of hisself in there. That wasn’t the problem for me, but rather, the goatee. Yes, the goatee was my biggest problem with him. I don’t know, some men just shouldn’t wear facial hair and Coogan is one of them. Yeah, that’s a little thing, but it really took away from his performance for me.

There are many who say Uma Thurman is one of the most beautiful women in the world. I’m not one of them, but I do get the irony in having such a beautiful woman play Medusa. As am atter of fact, if I’m not mistaken, Medusa is a beautiful woman before Athena puts the curse on her, so it makes sense, if I have my mythology right. All that aside, Medusa in every film is never on-screen that long. This is no exception, she ends up getting her head chopped off maybe 5 minutes after we first see her, but her head is seen throughout the film.

Rosario Dawson and Brandon T. Jackson…look, I’m not going ot beat around the bush. Look at the rest of the cast, then look at these two. Can we say quota. Not to take anything away from them. Jackson brings some much needed comic relief and Dawson is hot as hell, but I can’t help but think they were brought in to add some color.

Pierce Brosnan seems like he is in pain throughout this film, sort of like he doesn’t want to be there, but came into work for the paycheck. Having said that, though, I think his character is one that, if this becomes a franchise will rival that of Hagrid in the Harry Potter films. He’ll be that loved.

For me, this film took itself too seriously. I mean, aside from Grover, everyone seems to be acting like they’re in some Academy Award nominated drama. That is far from the case. For goodness sakes people, have some fun with this thing. I’m really surprised about this, especially considering that Chris Columbus, who directed the forts couple of HArry Potter films, is the director. Rumor is that they are working on a second one to be released in 2012. Hopefully, they’ll lighten up by then.

This is a perfect film for this lull between the holidays and summer. It isn’t quite a blockbuster, but it isn’t all artsy-fartsy, either. It blends action and heart, while at the same time providing the audience with some good entertainment. The scenery is beautiful at the camp and the CGI monsters aren’t too shabby, but could be better. Having said that, I belive if this becomes a franchise, we’ll look back at the faults and chalk them up to this being the first film. Is it worth watching? Most definitely, but don’t expect to see perfection, just go in and expect a pretty good flick about gods and stuff in modern day.

4 out of 5 stars


Posted in Animation, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2010 by Mystery Man


Prior to the events of the film, an unnamed man, referred to as, “The Scientist,” created the B.R.A.I.N. (or the Fabrication Machine) for peaceful purposes and to help evolve mankind’s technology. However, the leader of mankind took control of the machine and used it to wage war on other humans. With the lack of a human soul, the machine was corrupted and turned on mankind, wiping them out using other machines and poisonous gases. The Scientist constructed nine robotic like homunculi referred to as “Stitchpunks”, each one alive via a portion of the Scientist’s soul, and created an amulet which could be used to destroy the Fabrication Machine. The Scientist died shortly after creating the last of the Stitchpunks, 9.

9 awakens at the start of the film, taking the amulet with him. Outside, in the lifeless and devastated world, 9 meets fellow Stitchpunk 2, who gives him a vocal processor to speak. However, they are attacked by a machine called the “Cat-Beast” and 2 is captured. 9 is saved by one-eyed 5 who takes him to Sanctuary, an abandoned cathedral and home to the Stitchpunks, led by 1, and his bodyguard 8. 9 decides to rescue 2 from an old factory, aided by 5. The two locate 2 and the “Cat-Beast” is destroyed by 7, the only female Stitchpunk and a skilled warrior. 9 spots the shutdown Fabrication Machine where the amulet connects to, awakening it. It attacks 2 and sucks out his lifeforce, the soul being the machine’s power source. The Stitchpunks retreat to 3 and 4’s hideout where they reveal the machine’s origins. 9 realises they need to remove the amulet from the machine and returns to Sanctuary where 6 points out they need to return to a disclosed source. Sanctuary is attacked by a bird-like robot, called the “Winged Beast”, which is destroyed, but as is Sanctuary.

A snake-like robot, the “Seamstress”, kidnaps 7 and 8. 9 pursues it and witnesses 8 being killed by the Fabrication Machine, but rescues 7 before destroying the factory where the machine is, seemingly destroying it as well. The surviving Stitchpunks celebrate, but the machine rises and kills 5, and 6 soon after, the latter warning 9 that the souls of the deceased Stitchpunks are within the machine and it should not be destroyed, as well as the source is in the Scientist’s workshop where 9 awoke. 9 goes to the workshop and finds a video recording which explains how the amulet can be used to destroy the machine and free the trapped souls. 9 returns to the others who plan to destroy the machine. During the following battle, 9 prepares to sacrifice himself to defeat the machine, but 1 sacrifices himself to allow 9 to remove the amulet and destroy the machine.

The film ends with 9, 7, 3 and 4 releasing the souls of 1, 2, 5, 6 and 8, who fly up into the sky and cause it to rain, the raindrops containing small organisms, hinting that life in the world is not gone after all.


I’ve seen some strange and confusing films in my day, but I have got to say that 9 takes the cake. THat is not to say that this is a bad film, by any stretch of the imagination, just a bit on the eccentric side.

The good…the animation is beautiful. Look at the detail in each of the puppets. It is quite impressive. Voice casting isn’t half bad, though I belive I would have switched Christopher Plummer and Martin Landau’s characters. THe fabrication machine is also quite the impressive manifestation, as are the things that “serve” it. The story is ok, but I think it could have been a bit lighter in tone, but I think that has more to do with my anti-dark film stance than an actual critique of the film.

The bad…I’m so tired of these post-apocalyptic films. Can’t anyone out there come up with something original? This could have easily happened on another planet. To make things worse, the time frame they seem to be in is as if the war happened around the 40s or so. I have no issue with that, really, but I do wish they had set down an actual time frame. Also, how is it that 7 is the only female, or how is she female, rather? I mean, these are all part of the scientist’s soul. I’m guessing that is the part of him that’s in touch with his feminine side? No, that can’t be it, because she was far from being all girly girl. I didn’t really have a problem with the character, but rather the fact that it was odd to have this one female and that its part of his soul. Just seemed a bit odd to me.

I wish I could say that I enjoyed this picture, but the fact is that I didn’t. At the same time, I didn’t hate it. There just wasn’t anything to make me sit up and say I love this or that about this film, at least nothing that would make me choose it over a Pixar flick, or even remember it. However, I do think if you can get past the utter confusion of the film and how not for kids this is, you’ll find a decent film.

3 out of 5 stars

Boyz N the Hood

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2010 by Mystery Man


The film opens in 1984, focusing on three young black male youths, Tre, Doughboy and Ricky, as they grow up in South Central Los Angeles. Tre Styles is an intelligent young student but encounters disciplinary problems at a young age. His mother, Reva Devereaux (Angela Bassett), decides it would be best for her son if Tre were to live with his father, Furious Styles (Laurence Fishburne). Furious is a no-nonsense disciplinarian who teaches his son how to be a man. Tre begins his new life in South Central and reunites with old friends Doughboy, Ricky and Little Chris. Shortly after being reunited, Doughboy and Chris are arrested for shoplifting from a local convenience store.

Seven years later in 1991, the three boys lead very different lives. Tre (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) is a senior attending Crenshaw High School and also has a girlfriend, Brandi (Nia Long). Tension exists between the two because he wants to have a sexual relationship with Brandi, who resists the idea because of her Catholic faith. Ricky (Morris Chestnut) also attends Crenshaw High School where he is a star running back. Ricky has a son with his girlfriend Shanice (Alysia Rogers) and is being recruited by the University of Southern California, but needs to earn a minimum SAT score of 700 to receive an athletic scholarship. Doughboy (Ice Cube) has just been released from prison and spends most of his time hanging out with friends Chris (who now uses a wheelchair), Monster and Dooky.

In the climax of the film Ricky is murdered by members of the local Bloods with whom he had an earlier minor conflict. Doughboy, Monster and Dooky intend to retaliate to avenge Ricky’s death.

Tre, who was Ricky’s best friend, takes his father’s gun, but is stopped by Furious before leaving the house. Furious convinces Tre not to seek revenge and ruin his future. Tre seems to relent, but soon joins Doughboy and his friends on the revenge mission. Half way through the trip, Tre realizes his father was correct and returns home. Doughboy and his two friends proceed and avenge Ricky’s murder, gunning down his killers in cold blood.

The film ends the following morning with a conversation between Tre and Doughboy. Doughboy understands why Tre left the revenge mission and both lament the circumstances that exist in South Central and question whether or not they are locked in an unending cycle of violence. The end reveals that Ricky scored 710 in his SATs, and the titles reveal that Doughboy was murdered two weeks later and Tre went on to college with Brandi in Atlanta.


Every now and then, a film comes out that makes people sit up and take notice. In the early 90s, Boyz N the Hood was that picture. It did such a good job of doing so that it is in the Library of Cngress’  national film registry for being culturally significant. For a film like this, that’s a bigger feat that an Academy Award. Hmm…are any of Spike Lee’s overtly racist films in there? I think not!

The good…if this film was released today, it’d be all gritty and dark, but John Singleton chose to make it a more realistic look at urban life, that is there are good times and bad. The cast, at the time, were mostly up and coming actors. I would wager that this film vaulted them into bigger and better things, most notably Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Ice Cube. The dialogue between Cube and his flunkies, if you will, make for some really entertaining scenes. Ricky’s murder makes the most sense of all the characters, and I commend the filmmakers for choosing him rather than Doughboy or Tre, neither of which would have been as effective.

The bad…its obvious that Ricky’s mother favored him, but it never is really said why, save for a slight mention that they have different dads. I know this is supposed to be about the boys and all, but they could have given us a bit more on the women in the hood, at least more on the Ricky’s baby mama and mother. I don’t know all the women, except Nia Long and Regina King, seemed sort of wasted and/or underused here. Maybe it’s just me, though.

I’m sure there are films we’ve all seen when we were younger and didn’t quite understand ro appreciate, then a few years later we watch them again and gain a newfound respect for said pictures. That’s how Boyz N the Hood is for me. I watched this when I was still in junior high, and the only thing I remembered about it was the brief sex scene. Now, I appreciate how well made this film is, not to mention the fact that it entertains as well as provides some food for thought. A definite must-see, if you ask me.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Beverly Hills Cop

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 21, 2010 by Mystery Man


Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) is a young, talented, but extremely reckless Detroit police detective, having been reformed from his hoodlum years. His latest act of attempting to catch crooks through a cigarette smuggling operation goes sour when some uniformed officers show up, questioning their suspicious activity, and earns him the wrath of his boss, Inspector Douglas Todd (Gil Hill).

Foley’s childhood friend and former criminal cohort Mikey Tandino (James Russo), long gone from Detroit, shows up in Foley’s apartment (by breaking in) and tells him he’s working in Beverly Hills, California as a security guard, through the efforts of a mutual friend, Jenny Summers (Lisa Eilbacher). After going out to have a few drinks, both men return drunk to Foley’s apartment, where Foley is knocked cold and Mikey is confronted by two thugs, questioning him about some missing bearer bonds that he had shown Foley earlier. Mikey is then murdered, and after being refused the investigation because of his close personal ties, Foley uses the guise of going to Beverly Hills for a vacation to ascertain the motive and solve the crime.

Foley’s search soon leads him to Victor Maitland (Steven Berkoff), Mikey’s most recent employer and a respected art dealer who Foley soon begins to suspect is involved in some questionable activities, including Mikey’s murder. However, his investigation is hampered by the Beverly Hills Police Department, who are even less enthusiastic about Foley’s crime fighting methods than the Detroit Police Department. As evidence of Maitland’s unsavory activities piles up, Foley eventually convinces his Beverly Hills counterparts to assist him in bringing Maitland to justice.


Younger readers may not realize this, but there was a time in the not so distant past that Eddie Murphy was actually funny. Beverly Hills Cop is vintage Murphy comedy and a bit of cop action.

The good…Murpshy steals the show, but then again, this is his film. Can you believe this was originally written for Mickey Rourke or Sylvester Stallone? With a major player like Murphy, it is imperative that you have a supporting cast that won’t drift into nothingness behind him. Led by an underutilized Judge Reinhold, we get just that. Many have said that this is the first true action comedy. I don’t know about all that, but it my be the first one that actually was worth watching and remembering. The story is pretty cool, but let’s face it, as long as Murphy is making you crack up the rest of the story could have been Mary Had a Little Lamb.

The bad…as I mentioned earlier, Judge Reinhold is underutilized. He really is a good character actor, and until the end he doesn’t get much to do, and even then, he’s nothing more than the butt of jokes. The chief of police in Beverly Hills suddenly shows up twice. I realize what his job was and all, but it kind of messed up the continuity of the story, especially since the cops suddenly decided to help Axel.

A true quintessential 80s film, filled with an awesome soundtrack, and how can you not get down to the strains of “Axel F”? Beverly Hills Cop takes us on a ride that we won’t soon forget, whether you watch the film for its action, the nostalgia factor, or whathaveyou, much entertainment is sure to be had.

4 out of 5 stars

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Superhero Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 20, 2010 by Mystery Man


In an alternate 1899, an attack on the Bank of England in London is committed by a group of men who appear to be German soldiers using advanced explosives and automatic weapons, and even the first ever tank. This is followed by an attack on a German Zeppelin factory in Berlin by the same men, this time dressed as British soldiers, that leads Europe to the brink of war. An emissary of the British government, Sanderson Reed (Tom Goodman-Hill), arrives in a gentlemen’s club in British East Africa hoping to recruit the legendary, but now aged, hunter and adventurer Allan Quatermain (Sean Connery) to investigate the situation. Though Quatermain’s sense of patriotism has waned (because of his last adventures for the Empire cost the lives of many of his friends and lovers, his two wives, and also his beloved son), he wishes to protect his beloved Africa from war and agrees, especially after his lodge is attacked and destroyed by a band of assassins.

In London, Quatermain meets with the mysterious “M” (Richard Roxburgh), who explains his plan to assemble a modern version of a group of talented individuals known as the “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”, which aids the world in times of need, in this case to combat the threat of the “Fantom”, who is the true mastermind of the current crisis, and ensure world peace, by stopping him from destroying Venice. Quatermain is introduced to:

  • The Indian Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah), Commander of the world’s only submersible vessel Nautilus
  • Invisible gentleman thief Rodney Skinner (Tony Curran), who works for the government in hopes of an antidote for the invisibility serum he stole
  • Mina Harker (Peta Wilson), a vampire and well-regarded chemical scientist.

The group also recruits the mysterious immortal Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend) which is the point when Fantom attacks. They managed to fend off his forces with the help of American Secret Service Agent Tom Sawyer (Shane West) who assists the team after the United States finds out about Fantom’s plot.

When it came to Dr. Henry Jekyll (Jason Flemyng), his form of Mr. Hyde has to be hunted down all over Paris by Quatermain and Sawyer before Jekyll offers his services for reprieve in London for his crimes as Hyde.

With the team complete, the group takes off on Nemo’s submarine, the Nautilus, and sets off for Venice. The group worries there is a traitor in their midst when flash powder is found in the wheel room of the Nautilus, and a vial of Jekyll’s transformation serum is determined to be missing. Naturally, all think that the invisible thief, Skinner, is the culprit, but nothing can be done about it since Skinner is nowhere to be found.

Though the group reaches Venice in time, a series of bombs that have been planted under the city start to detonate shortly after, toppling buildings in a domino effect. The team decides that knocking one of the buildings out of the sequence is the only way to stop the chain of explosions. Nemo has a missile that can be fired from the Nautilus at the building in question, but only if a beacon can be set in place. Since Nemo can track his “automobile,” allowing it to serve as the beacon, Sawyer drives the car past the chain of explosions, as Gray and Mina disembark to fight the Fantom’s henchmen. Quatermain, meanwhile, notices and gives chase to the Fantom on foot. During the chase, The Fantom is unmasked and revealed to be M, who then escapes. At the same time, Sawyer crashes the car into the target building, while firing a flare, which signals Nemo to launch his missile. The building is destroyed, the chain of explosions stops, and Venice is saved.

The League regroups at the Nautilus, where Quatermain reveals that M is behind everything. Nemo’s first mate, Ishmael, also reveals that Gray, not Skinner, is the traitor, as he had been mortally shot by Gray, who escapes in an exploration pod. Nemo sets the Nautilus in pursuit, but a record is found from M and Gray, revealing that the League was a ruse so that M could steal physical elements from each of the League members, so as to construct an army of super-powered soldiers:

  • Captain Nemo’s science and technology
  • Jekyll’s formula
  • Mina’s blood
  • A sample of Skinner’s invisible skin

Quatermain was merely used to capture Hyde. M seeks to profit by starting a world war and selling armaments and weaponry based on the powers of the League to the combatant countries. As the record is played, it also releases a second, high-frequency signal which sets off three bombs in the ship, Dr. Jekyll becomes Mr. Hyde in order to stop the ship from sinking.

Following a signal from Skinner, who had stowed away on Gray’s vessel before he escaped, the Nautilus follows to the Asiatic Arctic, and the League travels to a cave overlooking an industrial fortress. Skinner meets with the group (who then apologizes to him for falsely condemning him as the traitor) there, and tells them that M has a number of scientists and their families held as hostages and slaves in his munitions factory, where the new weapons are being constructed. Splitting up, the League infiltrates the factory. Nemo and Hyde free the scientists and their families; Sawyer and Quatermain go after M. Mina goes in search of Gray, while Skinner sets off to plant some explosives to destroy the factory.

Nemo and Hyde run into M’s second-in-command, Dante (Max Ryan), who drinks a very large dose of Jekyll’s formula and transforms into a gigantic, hulking monster to combat Hyde. Mina fights a stalemate battle with Gray; little is accomplished as they are both immortal, until she confronts him with the enchanted portrait of himself. When he sets eyes upon the painting, he ages rapidly, dies, and decays. Quatermain confronts M in his lair and reveals his deduction that M is none other than the supposedly dead Professor James Moriarty, nemesis of Sherlock Holmes. As the explosives go off, Nemo and Jekyll manage to escape the building through a small hole in the wall, while Dante, being far too large to fit, is crushed to death by falling debris. Quatermain, about to kill Moriarty, sees Sawyer being held at knifepoint and chooses to save Sawyer at the cost of being stabbed himself. Sawyer is forced to use the marksmanship skills that Quatermain had taught him, and manages to kill a fleeing Moriarty before he can leave in his stolen submersible vessel. Quatermain dies soon after, telling Sawyer that the new century belongs to him now–perhaps a prediction of the upcoming century being the “American Century”.

The League assembles in Africa to bury Quatermain. As the group departs, a tribal witch doctor (Semere-Ab Etmet Yohannes) takes handfuls of dirt from Quatermain’s grave and begins a ritual chant. We are reminded of a witch doctor’s pronouncement, recounted by Quatermain at the beginning of the movie, that Africa would not let Quatermain die. As the witch doctor does a chant, the earth shakes violently, making the rifle that Sawyer had left on the grave shake. Lightning strikes the rifle and Quatermain’s grave right before the screen cuts to black.


This has been one of those oddity weeks for my Netflix choices. In other words, they just picked random films from my list and sent them, even though my tope 3 were available. This is how I ended up with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a film that has been on AMC every day for the past month. Now, I’m not complaining about getting this flick. It wasn’t on there for no reason, but I hadn’t planned on watching it this week, at least not in DVD form.

The good…the use of these literary characters as heroes is a nice concept. The action is great. THe look of the Nautilus, both inside and out, is nothing short of remarkable. Sean Connery…need I say more? THe Victorian Era costumes and sets are done very well. Sinking Venice…not that is something that deserves some kudos. Even though the entire city didn’t get sunk, its still a pretty hefty feat, even for what they did.

The bad…apparently, Dorian Gray and Tom Sawyer were not characters in the comic, and were added to the film just because the filmmakers felt like it. I have no issue with Dorain Gray, but Tom Sawyer seemed a bit out of place. My guess is that they wanted to put some American literary hero in, and that’s fine and dandy. I just felt that Tom didn’t quite fit in with the rest, is all. I wasn’t too impressed with the look of Mr. Hyde (or the guy that drinks all the serum at the end). To me they seemed like some kind of hybrid between Hulk and Goro from Mortal Kombat. Not exactly a good combination. On top of that, the transformation scenes were too drawn out. They could have made his transformations be a lot smoother and not so herky jerky. I realize this is 1899, but if the wolfman can have a smooth transformation, then why can’t Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? They had a really nice story going for Mina, but didn’t go anywhere with it. Obviously, she’s a daywalker, but what else can we know about her? For that matter, what it have hurt to give us some more info about each of the characters? Not everyone sits in a library reading all these books day in and day out ,so they may not be familair with them. I know I had to google Dorian GRay.

This is not a concept that would work for just anyone. Can you imagine characters like The Hardy Boys, Judy Blum, Harry Potter, and those characters that Fabio is when he poses for those smut covers teaming up to save the world? No. That’s what makes this film so great. I’ll admit, though, I didn’t know this was a comic. I need to go see if I can find a copy and then watch this film again. I really enjoyed everything about this picture, though. Critics bashed it (big surprise), saying its only redeeming quality was Sean Connery. Look, as with every film, you need to see it to make your own opinion, but the critics are wrong on this one. This is just a fun action flick featuring literary characters saving the world. do I suggest you take the time to watch it. Well, I’m not going ot say drop everything you’re doing and watch it right now, but yes, you should watch it. Disappoint will not be an option!

4 out of 5 stars


Posted in Classics, Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , on February 20, 2010 by Mystery Man


Thomas Hutter (Jonathan Harker in Stoker’s novel) lives in the fictitious German city of Wisborg. His employer, Knock, sends Hutter to Transylvania to visit a new client named Orlok. Hutter entrusts his loving wife Ellen to his good friend Harding and Harding’s sister Ruth, before embarking on his long journey.

Nearing his destination, Hutter stays at an inn, where the locals become frightened by his mere mention of Orlok’s name and discourage him from traveling to his castle at night. In his room, Hutter finds a book, The Book of the Vampires, which he peruses before falling asleep.

 Late the next day, Hutter is welcomed at the castle by Count Orlok himself. While Hutter has a late dinner, Orlok reads a letter. When Hutter cuts his thumb, Orlok tries to suck the blood out of the wound, but his repulsed guest pulls his hand away. Hutter then falls asleep in the parlor.

He wakes up to an empty castle and notices fresh punctures on his neck, which he attributes to mosquitoes. That night, Orlok signs the documents to purchase the house across from Hutter’s own home. Orlok sees Hutter’s miniature portrait of his wife and admires her beautiful neck. Reexamining The Book of the Vampires, Hutter starts to suspect that Orlok is Nosferatu, the “Bird of Death”. He cowers in his room as midnight approaches, but there is no way to bar the door. The door opens by itself and Orlok enters, his true nature finally revealed. At the same time, Ellen sleepwalks and screams for Hutter. She is somehow heard by Orlok, who leaves Hutter untouched.

The next day, Hutter explores the castle. In its crypt, he finds the coffin in which Orlok is resting dormant. Horrified, he dashes back to his room. From the window, he sees Orlok piling up coffins on a coach and climbing into the last one before the coach departs. Hutter escapes the castle through the window, but falls unconscious when he reaches the ground. He is taken to a hospital. When he is sufficiently recovered, Hutter hurries home.

Meanwhile, the coffins are shipped down river on a raft. They are transferred to a schooner, but not before one is opened by the crew. Inside, they find soil and rats.

Under the long-distance influence of Orlok, Knock starts behaving oddly and is confined to a psychiatric ward. Later, Knock steals a newspaper, which tells of an outbreak of an unknown plague spreading down the coast of the Black Sea. Many people are dying, with odd marks on their necks. Knock rejoices.

The sailors on the ship get sick one by one; soon all but the captain and first mate are dead. Suspecting the truth, the first mate goes below to destroy the coffins. However, Orlok awakens and the horrified sailor jumps into the sea. Unaware of his danger, the captain becomes Orlok’s latest victim.

When the ship arrives in Wisborg, Orlok leaves unobserved, carrying one of his coffins. (A passage in The Book of the Vampires reveals that the source of a vampire’s power is the soil in which he was buried.) He moves into the house he purchased. The next morning, when the ship is inspected, the captain is found dead. After examining the logbook, the doctors assume they are dealing with the plague. The town is stricken with panic.

 Hutter returns home. Ellen reads The Book of Vampires, despite his injunction not to, and learns how to kill a vampire: a woman pure in heart must willingly give her blood to him, so that he loses track of time until the cock’s first crowing.

There are many deaths in the town. The residents chase Knock, who has escaped after murdering the warden, mistaking him for a vampire.

Orlok stares from his window at the sleeping Ellen. She opens her window to invite him in, but faints. When Hutter revives her, she sends him to fetch Professor Bulwer. After he leaves, Orlok comes in. He becomes so engrossed drinking her blood, he forgets about the coming day. A rooster crows and Orlok vanishes in a bit of smoke as he tries to flee. Ellen lives just long enough to be embraced by her grief-stricken husband. The last image of the movie is of Orlok’s ruined castle in the Carpathian Mountains.


These days it seems like vampires are anything but scary. Well, in case you’ve forgotten what vampires should be, check out the original cinematic vampire in all his black & white, silent film goodness in 1922’s Nosferatu.

Yes, I said silent. This is a silent film, a fact that I actually didn’t know until I started watching. Nothing wrong with that, just a fact that I didn’t know.

The good…back in the old days, actors had to actually be able to act, even more so if you go back to these silent films. While it was a bit over the top at times, the raw emotion is more believable than anything that has come along since. Max Shreck makes a terrifying vampire, especially when you consider that not a drop of blood is shed and he’s more of an intimidating presence rather than a gory, murderous, figure. The story does a good job of moving along at a decent pace and not stalling and/or dragging along.

The bad…there isn’t much on the negative side, but the thing that sticks out the most for me was the music. On its own, the orchestrations are gorgeous. If you close your eyes, it’s just like you are at a concert, but when added with the film, it just doesn’t seem to fit or set the mood. Now, since I wasn’t around in the 20s, I don’t know if this little critique is just a matter of different times. If that is the case, then I retract the statement, otherwise, I stand by my opinion.

As  a fan of the classics, I maintain the position that these films are infinitely better than anything that is out there today. Back in those days actors actually knew how to act and films weren’t made around special effects. I know that there are those out there that think flicks without effects or, in this case, dialogue, are a total bore. That is not the case with Nosferatu, though. If you’re a fan of vampires, vampire lore, or vampire films, you need to watch this, if for nothing else than to see the patriarch of all media vampires from Bela Lugosi and Gary Oldman as Dracula to Wesley Snipe as Blade down to the vampires in True Blood, Vampire Diaries, and yes, even the Cullens from the Twilight movies. Without the success and longevity of this picture, though, who knows if these would have even been created, let alone attain the level of popularity vampires seem to be currently riding.

4 out of 5 stars

Taking Woodstock

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on February 17, 2010 by Mystery Man


Set in 1969, the film follows the true story of Elliot Tiber (Demetri Martin), an aspiring Greenwich Village interior designer whose parents, Jake (Henry Goodman) and Sonia (Imelda Staunton), own the small dilapidated El Monaco Motel in White Lake, in the town of Bethel, New York The hippie theater troupe The Earthlight Players rents the barn, but can hardly pay any rent. They sometimes run around naked outside, but are then chased back into the barn by Sonia. Due to supposed financial trouble, the motel may have to be closed, but Elliot assists in trying to avoid that.

Elliot plans to hold a small musical festival, and has, for $1, obtained a permit from the town of Bethel. When he hears that the organizers of the Woodstock Festial face opposition against the originally planned location, he offers his permit and the motel accommodations. Max Yasgur (Eugene Levy) provides his nearby farm land; first they agree on a fee of $5,000, but after realizing how many people will come Yasgur demands $75,000, which the organizers reluctantly accept. Elliot comes to agreement about the fee for the motel more smoothly. Initial objections by his mother quickly disappear when she sees the cash paid in advance. A transvestite veteran, Vilma (Liev Schreiber), is hired as security guard.

Elliot and Yasgur encounter a little bit of expected opposition. The local diner refuses to serve Elliot anymore, inspectors target the hotel (and only his) for building code violations, and some local boys paint a swastika and hate words on the hotel. However, these things are quickly squelched, and Yasgur doesn’t care because he’s gotten more politeness from everybody that came than he ever got from the locals who oppose it.

The Tiber family works hard and makes much money. Elliot and the viewer do not see the musical performances; on his way to them Elliot takes an LSD trip with a hippie couple (Paul Dano and Kelli Garner), in their VW Bus.

When back Elliot suggests to Sonia that they now have money to hire a worker, so that he can leave, but Sonia apparently prefers Elliot’s free services. However, it turns out that Sonia secretly (without even her husband knowing) saved $97,000, so that even before the festival they were financially fine. Elliot hates it that his mother pretended financial trouble and requested him to help out (unbeknownst to the protagonist, his mother was simply afraid of close contact with Elliot as she had with her daughter shown earlier in the film)


Ah…the 60s…summer of love. Taking Woodstock is supposedly a film that explores the fun loving, freewheeling music festival known as Woodstock. The problem is, somewhere along the lines, Ang Lee decided it’d be better to make a film (which he calls a comedy) about the people behind the festival.

The good…Liev Schriber as a transvestite. Yes, he’s the best part of the film. Not sure if that’s good or bad, but he is the one thing that is the most memorable in the entire 2 hrs. He’s never gonna pass as a woman or anything, but somehow he makes a convincing tranny. The only other thing that is even worth mentioning is the LSD trip scene. No matter what film, TV show, or what have you that has one of these, they are always fun to watch, if for nothing more than the pretty colors.

The bad…how can you make a film about Woodstock and not have music? Someone please tell me that! It kind of defeats the purpose. Normally, I’m all about naked folks and whatnot, but the nudity in this thing was just…I dunno. It wasn’t done tastefully, but rather felt like it was there just because they could. For such a light hearted time, they sure chose to make this thing heavy in the drama, but then I shouldn’t be surprised. This is also the director that made the Hulk an absolute bore. The story doesn’t really go anywhere, but rather seems to jump around and not lead to any sort of finish. I’m also not really a fan of Demitri Martin. I seriously think the on;y reason he got this role was because he has that 60s look, and is Jewish. Wait…isn’t there a guy on The Big Bang Theory who fits that criteria as well? Not sure if he’s be better or worse, but wouldn’t have hurt, but that personal bias speaking.

Raise you hand if you really care about the people behind Woodstock, or should I say, seeing a film about said people. If you’re like me, you could honestly care less. Not to take anything away from these people, but Woodstock is all about the music, and that is the most glaring omission from this film, and really hurts it, besides the fact that this is a total bore. I’m sure there is an audience for this picture out there somewhere, but it just wasn’t for me. I can’t sit here and say that you shouldn’t see it, but I can say that I won’t be giving it a second thought.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Race to Witch Mountain

Posted in Action/Adventure, Family, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 17, 2010 by Mystery Man


Jack Bruno (Dwayne Johnson) is a cab driver in Las Vegas. One of his passengers is Dr. Alex Friedman (Carla Gugino), a failed scientist who is giving speeches about legitimate scientific theories of UFOs and outer space.

The next day, Bruno notices two children, Sara (AnnaSophia Robb) and Seth (Alexander Ludwig) sitting in the back seat of his cab. They tell him they need to go to a certain destination and are willing to pay all they have ($15,000, which they removed from an ATM) to get there. They lead him to a house in the middle of nowhere. Meanwhile, Major Henry Burke (Ciarán Hinds) is searching for information on the two aliens that landed some days earlier.

When they arrive at the house, Bruno follows them out of concern and curiosity. There, the kids retrieve the device they were looking for, contained within alien flora.

When leaving, they are attacked by a “Siphon” (Tom Woodruff, Jr.), a creature built to destroy a certain target. The Siphon pursues them, until its spaceship crashes into a train, the locomotive is destroyed by an explosion in the railroad tunnel, and the creature is wounded. The trio eventually find themselves in a small town. The children explain to Bruno that they are aliens from a distant planet, who are sent to Earth by their parents because the government of their dying planet intends to attack and invade Earth so that their kind may live on there. They also explain that the object they obtained at the house contains the results of an experiment which their parents set up. The research from this experiment will save their planet without having to attack and invade Earth. However their planet’s military prefer the idea of invading Earth and sent the Siphon assassin to stop them. They are next pursued by government agencies trying to retrieve the children for experiments.

They are joined by Dr. Friedman at the UFO Expo. With help of one of Dr. Friedman’s friends, the kids discover that their crashed spaceship has been relocated to a government base at Witch Mountain. The group, now including Dr. Friedman, after evading the pursuing government agents, eventually arrive at Witch Mountain. There, the children are captured, along with Bruno and Friedman. The government agents began running tests to try to discover the secret of their powers in attempt to harness them. Burke then plans to kill them and do unspeakable things to them. Nevertheless, the two humans escape and come to rescue the kids in nick of time. The Siphon causes a distraction by attacking the base, allowing the humans to free the children and reach their ship. They launch the ship, escape through the mountain’s tunnels and kill the Siphon who boarded the ship. Once safe, the kids drop the humans off, and during a tearful goodbye, give Bruno and Dr. Friedman a device that will allow the kids to always find them. As for Burke, whose base is now in ruins, he is left getting questions from Washington. The movie ends with the spaceship taking off and returning to their planet.

During the end credits, Bruno and Dr. Friedman (now in a relationship) are speaking at a UFO convention about their new successful book called “Race to Witch Mountain”. As the couple get into their car and are about to leave, the device the kids gave Bruno activates, implying that they may be returning.


I think by now you all know my feelings towards remakes. In case you don’t, I hate them and think they are an insult to the original film, but I do keep an open mind when viewing.

The remake of Race to Witch Mountain turned out to be better than I thought. I think I may have only seen the original once or twice. That was back in the day when Disney Channel actually showed classic Disney programming and wasn’t all tween happy, but that’s another topic for another blog.

While this film isn’t the greatest thing to hit theaters, it isn’t half bad.

The good…lots of action. I’ve been wondering lately why Dwayne Johnson has been doing nothing but these Disney family films, and while this is a family film, it is more of the action flick that is the reason many have forgotten he was a wrestler not that long ago. Carla Gugino in her limited capacity shows off some acting chops instead of her delicious curves (although much of her wardrobe is very curve friendly). The villain is your typical government alien hater who wants to cover it all up and dissect them just because he can. A bit overdone, but it works.

The bad…the boy is a bit cold. I get that he’s supposed to be an alien and all, but this kid has no feeling whatsoever, even at the ned when he tries to convey some emotion, it doesn’t work. I guess we have another Christian Bale or Hayden Chritsensen  on our hands. Like I said the villain is kind of overdone. While he works, I think he could have been scaled back and more emphasis put on the Siphon, or perhaps they should have ended up working together. Adding in the dog was pointless, if you ask me, and why is it the cab took so much abuse, got half fixed, and was still able to run. Something doesn’t quite add up there.

I was surprised as how action packed this thing turned out to be. This jut goes to prove my point about keeping an open mind. While I detest remakes, occasionally one will come along that is worth watching. Race to Witch Mountain does its predecessor justice by being a good film. Is it as good as the original? Well, I’ll have to watch both films again to know that, but as far as this one goes, it is a good flick to watch with the whole family.

4 out of 5 stars

Blast From the Past

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Romantic with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2010 by Mystery Man


Calvin Webber (Christopher Walken) is a brilliant, eccentric, and paranoid Caltech nuclear physicist (see mad scientist), living the stereotypical happy 1960s life during the Cold War. His extreme fear of a nuclear holocaust leads him to build an enormous self-sustaining fallout shelter beneath his suburban San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles home. One night, while he and his pregnant wife, Helen (Sissy Spacek), are entertaining guests, a family friend comes to inform him that John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev are getting into a debate. The family turns on their television, and watch in horror. When the Cuban Missile Crisis begins, they ask their guests to leave, and they head down into the shelter. Meanwhile, a pilot is having problems with his plane; he is ordered to eject, believing his jet will crash into the Pacific Ocean. Just as the Webbers descend into the shelter, the plane veers off and crashes into the Webber home, leaving their friends and family to believe the family has died. The family, having seen the resulting fireball just as they lock themselves in their shelter, believe that the unthinkable has happened and that they are the sole survivors of a nuclear war. The locks on the shelter are set for 35 years and cannot be overridden by anyone inside or outside the shelter – for “their own protection” according to Calvin Webber.

A few days after the locks have been engaged, Mrs. Webber goes into labor and gives birth to a baby boy, whom they name Adam. During the roughly 35 years they are down in the shelter, the world above drastically changes, while the Webbers’ life remains frozen in 1962. Adam is taught in several languages, all school subjects, dance, boxing, and many other things. The family passes time watching black and white movies via a projector. Adam is given his father’s baseball card collection, and shares in IBM, Polaroid, and AT&T.

In the present (which would have been October 1997, though this is not specifically stated in the film) the timer on the locks releases, and Calvin decides to check out the surroundings above the shelter (in full protective gear), which has turned into a ghetto. He mistakes this for a post-apocalyptic world and wants his wife and grown son (Brendan Fraser) to stay in hiding, but suffers from chest pain. Adam, who is naïve but well-educated, is sent for supplies and help, thus beginning his adventures.

Much of the humor in the film is derived from his being unaccustomed to the lifestyle of the present (such as using the term negro, and believing “shit” is a French compliment), believing “gay” means happy, and finding awe in simple things of modernity. Early on, he meets Eve Rustikoff (Alicia Silverstone) at a card store, where she works, and where he went to sell his father’s classic baseball cards. She stops the store owner from ripping Adam off and is immediately fired. Adam asks Eve to take him to the Holiday Inn, in exchange for a baseball card, worth 4,000 dollars. The next morning, at the Holiday Inn, Eve comes to give back the card to Adam, and after a brief conversation, Eve informs Adam that she has to look for a new job. In exchange for $1,000 a week, Adam asks Eve to work for him, she agrees to help him buy the supplies and his search for a “non-mutan” wife from Pasadena. Meanwhile, Adam meets Eve’s homosexual housemate and best friend, Troy (Dave Foley), who offers advice and commentary as Adam and Eve fall in love.

At the conclusion of the movie, Adam’s father and mother move into a home at the surface that their son has had constructed with the wealth he has acquired from selling stocks, which acquired great value from splits over the years. Only his father is informed that the catastrophe they went into seclusion for was in fact a plane crash, for fear his mother would be incredibly angry at her husband for her years of mistaken confinement.

The film finishes with Adam’s mother at peace with her newfound freedom from the shelter, Adam and Eve engaged to be married, while Calvin, certain that the “Commies” have faked the collapse of the Soviet Union, starts pacing out measurements for a new fallout shelter.


Blast From the Past tells the story of a couple who are forced underground by what they belive is the nuclear holocaust. While down there, the already pregnant wife, gives birth to their son whom the name Adam. 35 yrs later, they decide its time to see what has happened to the world above. After a failed and flawed view by the father, Adam is sent to get supplies. Hilarity ensues and we get a really good film.

The good…you can call me an old soul, but I just love film that tackle the eras from the 30-early 60s. Obviously, with the focus on the early 60s in this film, as well as the swinging soundtrack to go along with it, the picture already has a gold star in my book. Only Brendan Fraser could pull off this role. Other actors would try to read too much into the character and not just have fun with it. If you watch Fraser, you can see he’s truly having fun being the man-child. I think the ony other person that might have been able to pull this off would be Will Ferrell, but he doesn’t have the childlike innocent look that Fraser had in this picture. I also have to commend them for getting Fraser lookalikes to play him at his younger ages. Not only did they look like him, they even had his mannerisms. Dave Foley provides a nice little secondary character that is totally undervalues when people talk about this film. Alicia Silverstone lights up the screen with her beauty. This is one of the roles she was made to play. **side note–loved the shoes** The story didn’t win any points for being the best written, but un;ess you’re just one of those that picks apart everything, its hardly even noticable because this is such a cute, fun, entertaining film, and that’s what really matters.

The bad…as much as I hate to say this, I feel there could have been some kind of villain. Either someone who also was in a time capsule or maybe more of Nathan Fillion as he wanted Eve back. Speaking of Eve…Adam and Eve? Seriously? I’m not sure if that was cute or cliché.  It is obvious that Troy is attracted to Adam as well, maybe they could have put a scene in there where he tries something. Not saying that not having that in there was bad, just a suggestion.

If you can’t handle these overly sweet films, then you better stay away from this picture, or you’ll end up rotting your teeth. Yes, it is that sweet. The innocence of Adam pretty much embodies the film. Except for one scene where Adam and Eve semi make out and some innuendo here and there, mainly in the club, you could literally put this thing in black and white and released it in the 50s. It is good to know that not every picture has to have special effects and sex in it, and those that don’t are considered family flicks. Blast From the Past is refreshing in that it is a romantic comedy that is so simplistic in its approach, that you love it without even realizing it. This is a must see for any and all!

5 out of 5 stars

Cougar Club

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , on February 15, 2010 by Mystery Man


Having no family, Marshall Hogan III (Warren Kole) has been granted residency in the house of his best friend Spence Holmes (Jason Jurman). But Hogan has a sexual habit that makes Spence’s dad and girlfriend (Kaley Cuoco) fear that Spence could adopt it, too. It is an attraction to older – if not just plain old – women.

In college, Hogan makes out with his much older professor (Carrie Fisher) just before the graduation ceremony. In a private celebration, he dances intimately with the much older wife (Faye Dunaway) of the party’s host. The host is a lawyer whom Spence’s father asked for favoritism in hiring Spence for residency. Hogan and the host’s wife disappear, but when a poolside’s cabana’s wall breaks down, everybody sees her mounting him. Losing his chance of residency, Spence’s father has to ask for favoritism from the worst possible candidate – the most evil divorce lawyer in town, Mr. Stack (Joe Mantegna).

Nevertheless, Spence coaxes his father to get the same job for Hogan. Thus the two best friends begin to work together. Alas, the divorce lawyers know they need their recommendation in order to be accepted into law school. Therefore, they abuse them in every way possible, from physical chores (like cutting one of the lawyers’ overly dirty toenails) to doing risky and illegal PI work.

Between cleaning bathrooms and walking in on Hogan having anal sex with the office’s older large black secretary (Loretta Devine) in the closet, Spence feels his life isn’t going well. One errand has Spence and Hogan delivering divorce papers to a lawyer’s wife. Other middle aged women are also in her house listening to a sex seminar. Hogan spontaneously invites them all to a party. It gives him an idea for an alternative source of livelihood. That is, forming “Cougar Club” – a place for young men to meet older women. Expensive membership fees would provide access to parties and other social gatherings.

Their first client is a pre-Bar examination law graduate in their office, who up until now only has had sex by masturbating. He gains revenge on his hated boss when the guys set him up with the boss’ wife, a lusty and busty Amazon (Chyna). Meanwhile, Spence and Hogan each have sex with one of the other wives. Living at home, Spence’s parents – accompanied by their lawyer – return by surprise from a vacation. Spence manages to hide the sexually engaged guests. Only the wife he has slept with (Izabella Scorupco) is caught by Spence’s girlfriend and spotted by her lawyer husband, Mr. Stack.

Said husband finds papers Spence left in the office about Cougar Club. He realizes they slept with the lawyers’ wives. He tips the police and a detective infiltrates the next party. When Spence and Hogan ask him for membership fees, he arrests them for pimping. The lawyer then casually walks by and fires them.

Spence returns to his girlfriend. She begins planning a wedding for them. Hogan, who crashes in with his former college professor, eventually approaches Spence with an idea – luring the vengeful lawyers to bomb his car and get arrested for terrorist acts. After the plan is carried out with success, Spence confesses to his girlfriend that he doesn’t really love her, that he never even asked her to marry him, and once again becomes best friends with Hogan.

At their trial, Spence and Hogan use the questionable yet free services of their friend who has now passed the bar exam. The judge (Carolyn Hennesy) asks to see them in her chambers. With their lawyer momentarily outside, Hogan contends to running a legit dating service as a true cougar fan. She considers acquitting them if Spence proves he feels like Hogan. Wearing revealing clothes under her robe, she kisses Spence. He goes along with it and they make out right on her desk.

Spence invites the lawyer’s wife to a new party. She never shows up, but he is still thrilled when a new cougar – the judge – arrives to celebrate with him. With no recommendation letter, Spence and Hogan expand the business via a statewide bus tour with club members and cougars alike.


Netflix recommended this atrocity and took the bait. Now, I didn’t expect much going into it. I mean, seriously, I had never heard of it before it popped on the recommendations list, but good grief, I expected something better than this.

The good…–crickets chirping– lol Seriously, though, there are some good things about this film. The plot isn’t that bad, just badly executed. Joe Mantegna, who I can’t figure out why he’s in this thing, lights up the screen as the villainous boss. Wrestling fans from the decades past will remember Chyna, and its good to see she’s still the Amazon she once was, even if she is a joke of her former 9th wonder of the world self. The end party was a welcome surprise, especially with the guest that showed up.

The bad…this is supposed to be a comedy, but I didn’t find myself laughing one bit. The film starts off like its going to be decent, but somewhere after they start working at the law firm it crashes and burns. The women seem to be nothing more than objects or playthings. Now, for this type of movie, that is expected, but give them some depth. There is this one scene where on of the guys is envisioning Faye Dunaway’s character as he’s trying to get off, but it’s never really explained why. I love Kaley Cuoco on The Big Bang Theory, but she just came off as annoying here. The boss’ wife seemed to have a story of her own, but they totally dropped the ball with her. I could see them doing so much with her, but instead they used said time to cause a rift between the leads. WTF?!?

Look, stay away from this at all costs. Seriously, if you’re into cougars that bad, then tune in to Cougar Town on ABC. You’ll definitely be more entertained. I can’t believe I wasted 95 min of my life on this waste of film. If you’re wondering if I think this would be a good viewing, the answer is no. Under no circumstances should this ever be watched!

1/2 out of 5 stars