Archive for February, 2010

The Monster Squad

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

PLOT:

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.

REVIEW:

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

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(500) Days of Summer

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

PLOT:

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”.

REVIEW:

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

PLOT:

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”).

REVIEW:

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

PLOT:

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.

REVIEW:

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

9

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

PLOT:

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.

REVIEW:

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

PLOT:

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.

REVIEW:

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

PLOT:

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.

REVIEW:

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