Archive for May, 2010

The Next Karate Kid

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on May 30, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Keisuke Miyagi (Pat Morita) travels to the city of Boston to attend a commendation for Japanese American soldiers who had fought in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II. There, he meets Louisa Pierce (Constance Towers), the widow of his commanding officer, Lieutenant Jack Pierce. At Pierce’s home, they catch up on old times and talk about Chinese food. Miyagi is then introduced to Pierce’s granddaughter, Julie Pierce (Hilary Swank) an angry teenage girl who has become full of pain, sorrow, and consequent resentment because of the death of her parents in a car accident. Her rage and violent behavior have led to friction between her, her grandmother, and fellow students. She is also in disgrace for sneaking into the school at night to care for an injured hawk, named Angel, whom she keeps in a pigeon coop on the roof. Hoping to mend matters, Miyagi sends Louisa to his own house in California to become his gardener while he leaves California for Boston and appoints himself as Julie’s caretaker. At the Boston school, Julie meets and befriends Eric McGowen (Chris Conrad), a kindhearted train-security guard and a pledge for a fraternity known as the Alpha Elite. The members of this organization are taught to strictly enforce the school rules, using physical force if necessary, by a stern and relentless mentor; Colonel Dugan (Michael Ironside). In this group is Colonel Dugan’s strongest and most aggressive student Ned (Michael Cavalieri), who makes repeated, indiscreet and unsuccessful attempts to flirt with Julie. Eric learns of Julie’s injured hawk Angel and promises to feed and water Angel while Julie is with Miyagi.

When Julie survives almost being hit by a car by jumping into a tiger position, she reveals to Miyagi that she was taught karate by her father, who, as it turns out, was taught by Miyagi. The next time she sneaks into the school to feed her bird, she is detected by the Alpha Elite, apprehended by the police and suspended from school for two weeks. Miyagi takes this time to take Julie to a Buddhist monastery in order to teach her the true ways of karate. At the monastery, Julie learns, through direct lessons, respect for all life; balance; co-ordination; awareness; and some limitability. She befriends several monks including the Grand Abbot. Eventually, the monks hold a birthday party for her, giving her a cake and an arrow that Miyagi had caught while it was in flight in a demonstration of Zen archery. Upon Julie’s return to school, she finds that Angel is now able to fly, and is assisted by Miyagi in releasing her back to the wild. In preparation for the upcoming school prom, Miyagi then teaches Julie how to dance and also buys her a white dress. While Julie goes to the dance with Eric, Miyagi and the Buddhist monks go bowling. A boastful and undisciplined local player challenges them, loses the match, and accepts their tutelage. During the dance party, Ned and his fellow Alpha Elite members disrupt the dance for no particular reason by bungee-jumping from the ceiling of the gymnasium for no reason at all. When Eric confronts Ned about the disruption Ned berates Eric for not being brave enough to attempt the extremely random bungee-jump into the prom maneuver.

Eric drives Julie home and kisses her as they prepare to part ways. Ned follows them and damages Eric’s car with a baseball bat. Ned then challenges Eric to a fight at the docks, a favored Elite hangout. At the fight, Ned is joined by Colonel Dugan and the rest of the Alpha Elite. They set fire to his car, as well as to several other objects in the area, and severely beat Eric. Eric is saved by Julie and Miyagi. As they prepare to leave, Ned challenges Julie to fight. Julie fights, using the karate she has learned, until Ned cheats by throwing sand into Julie’s face. Julie eventually defeats Ned and turns her back on him. This prompts Colonel Dugan to desperately bully the rest of his group, urging them to continue the fight. Miyagi then challenges Colonel Dugan to fight. Miyagi wins the fight, and then departs accompanied by Julie and Eric. He then reveals to Julie a tenet of his practice, at which he had hinted en route to the monastery: “Fighting not good. But if must fight, win.” The film concludes with a scene of Angel flying freely above sunlit waters

REVIEW:

After 3 films, the last of which was a total flop, you’d think they would have left well enough alone, but no, we get a “new” karate kid film, The Next Karate Kid.

The thing about this flick is that it is pretty much the same as the original, with certain changes made to “update” it and various plot points changed to make it a different picture, such as bringing in the monks and having Hilary Swank as a problem child, but when you strip away all that, the formula is still the same. As a matter of fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if this was the one of the stories they had for the original film and threw it out.

This is not a good film. I’ll just say that right now. There are some redeeming values, such as…well, there’s…um…well, Mr. Miyagi is still around.

Yes, he’s about the only thing that is halfway decent about this picture, but he seems to be in pain for doing this oicture. I would be too if I had to do this.

Still, I would have liked for them to have written Ralph Macchio in here, if for nothing more than a cameo, or at most a sort of passing of the torch. It would have made at least something interesting, but I guess that would make too much sense.

Hilary Swank was in the beginning of her career, and as a beginning platform, this wasn’t bad, but her performance left something to be desired. She just seemed like she was trying too hard to have that teen angst that was so prevalent in the 90s.

The Alpha Elite are apparently the Boston version of Cobra Kai, only instead of a dojo, they are some sort of ROTC-esque group at this high school. Not really sure what they’re purpose is, other than to have a group of bad guys to chase around Hilary Swank.

Look, this thing is not worth watching, unless you’re a Hilary Swank fan, or want to complete the entire Karate Kid franchise. Otherwise, it should be avoided at all costs.

2 out of 5 stars

The Karate Kid, part III

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 30, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The story picks up almost a year after the events ending the original film and opening the sequel. After it is established that Sensei John Kreese’s (Martin Kove) Cobra Kai dojo has lost all its business, Kreese visits his Vietnam War comrade Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith), who is also a karate expert, fellow Cobra Kai (later indicated as the real owner of Cobra Kai dojo). Silver and Kreese scheme to take revenge on Daniel and on his teacher, Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita), and make Cobra Kai successful once again.

Daniel leases a shop, and he and Miyagi prepare to open their own bonsai tree store. Visiting a pottery store across the street, Daniel meets Jessica Andrews (Robyn Lively), and they instantly become friends.

Silver recruits “Karate’s Bad Boy” Mike Barnes (Sean Kanan), promising him 25% of potential Cobra Kai profits if he succeeds in claiming Daniel’s title at the upcoming All-Valley Karate Tournament, but Barnes demands 50% and Silver gives it to him. After breaking into Miyagi’s home, Silver overhears Daniel tell Miyagi that he will not be participating in the tournament, as Miyagi felt that defense of the title would merely be fighting for personal reward.

That evening at the bonsai store, Daniel and Jessica are confronted by Mike and Snake (Jonathan Avildsen), one of Silver’s goons. They threaten to harm Daniel if he does not join the tournament. Daniel declines, and Mike, while promising to return, departs in a heated rage. At the bonsai store, Daniel and Jessica are again confronted by Mike and Snake, who are now joined by Mike’s personal trainer Dennis (Christopher Paul Ford). Daniel once again refuses to enter the tournament. The three goons respond by destroying the shop. Miyagi shows up and fends off the three men. Miyagi and Daniel arrive home to find their stock of bonsai has been stolen, with a tournament application hanging in their place.

Having received no assistance from the local police, Daniel and Jessica decide to dig up a bonsai tree which Miyagi had planted halfway down the cliffs surrounding the Devil’s Cauldron. Daniel thinks they can use the tree, which is the one true bonsai Miyagi brought from Okinawa, as a new source of capital, although Jessica doubts Miyagi will condone this sale of a valuable family heirloom. When Daniel and Jessica become trapped at the bottom of the cauldron, Silver’s three goons pull up their ropes and force Daniel to finally sign up for the tournament before lowering the ropes again. Barnes then purposely breaks the valuable tree. Daniel returns to the shop with Miyagi’s damaged bonsai, which Miyagi immediately mends and restores. Miyagi, who has sold his truck in order to buy a new stock of trees, refuses to train Daniel for the tournament.

Silver, who has befriended Daniel numerous times under the fraudulent guise of a humble friend of Kreese sent to apologize on behalf of their Korean master for Kreese’s previous actions, offers to “train” Daniel at the Cobra Kai dojo. Daniel accepts, and during the training sessions, Silver schools Daniel in many cheap and corrupt ways of fighting, consistently discouraging Daniel from using his kata. Silver repeatedly invites Daniel to attack a wooden dummy, injuring Daniel in the process and instilling fear in him, all according to plan. Miyagi tends to Daniel’s wounds via a special balm, and when he asks Daniel why he is doing this to himself, Daniel reproaches Miyagi angrily, saying he is having major trouble and to back off if Miyagi can’t help him solve it.

After several sessions, Daniel eventually destroys the entire dummy, at which point Silver proclaims that he is now ready to win the tournament. That night, Silver bribes a man into tempting Daniel into assaulting him while at a club with Jessica. Daniel, displeased by his own aggressive behavior, apologizes for his recent actions to Miyagi and Jessica (who reveals plans to return to Columbus, Ohio).

Daniel visits Silver at the dojo to inform him that he no longer wishes to train with him, and that he also no longer intends to compete in the tournament. Silver reveals his real agenda to Daniel, and both Mike and Kreese enter the room. After Mike proceeds to chase Daniel, Miyagi arrives and quickly fends off all three opponents. Afterwards, Miyagi finally decides to train Daniel for the upcoming tournament. They train by Devil’s Cauldron, where they replant the now-healed bonsai.

At the tournament, Mike makes his way up to the final round to face Daniel. Silver orders Mike to alternately score points and then intentionally lose them by incurring penalties with illegal moves designed to hurt Daniel and break his spirit. Mike is to continue this for the duration of the three-minute regulation period, and then score a quick point in sudden death. Mike does exactly as instructed, and a fearful Daniel begs Miyagi to let him forfeit the match. Miyagi refuses, telling Daniel “It’s okay to lose to opponent – must not lose to fear!”. Miyagi reminds Daniel that he still has his best moves left. In the sudden death period, Daniel finds one last bit of resolve and begins the kata (Seiunchin) that Miyagi taught him. A hesitant and confused Mike finally comes in to attack, and Daniel quickly counters by throwing him to the ground and scoring a point with a punch to Mike’s ribs. A disgusted Silver and Kreese walk away as the crowd throws back the Cobra Kai shirts that were given to them. An excited Daniel decides to forego the tradition bow, and instead hugs Mr. Miyagi.

REVIEW:

The final film in The Karate Kid trilogy has often been called the weakest entry. You’ll get no argument from me on that point.

The Karate Kid, part III has a decent story, but it lack the one thing the previous two films had…heart. This film seems like it was rushed into production and many of the actors were just cashing a paycheck, especially Ralph Macchio.

I like that it picks up right where the last one left off and that we get a slight cameo from Daniel’s mother (all 10 seconds of her), because it seems like the world has more or less revolved around him and Miyagi.

The new villains seem to be in the same mold as those from the previous two films, hyped up karate jocks. Although, Silver is one of the bright spots of the film, what with his conniving ways. He almost had me convinced that he wasn’t the total slime ball he really is.

Another bright spot was Robyn Lively. Arguably the prettiest of Daniel’s girlfriends, she actually seem to be more than a pretty face, or maybe she just has more acting talent than her predecessors.

Macchio and Pat Morita are their usual characters. They don’t seem to have changed their approach one bit. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing ,but I would have liked to have seen something different from them, instead of the same ol’ same ol’. They have become a bit stale at this point.

Now, with karate in the title, one would expect more than a few scenes of martial arts, right? Well, if that’s what you’re looking for when viewing this film, you’ll be sadly mistaken. There are a few scenes, culminating in the tournament at the film’s end, but it seems like with each of the pictures, the karate has taken a backseat to some unnecessary drama. I guess you must have some of that to have a plot, but there could be more action here, in my opinion.

So, this wasn’t the best of the franchise, but I can all but guarantee it’ll be head and shoulders above the craptastic remake that is coming out in the next week or two. Having said that, though, if you must see one of these films, I would go with the first one if you want good old karate and the second if you want the best overall film. I can’t recommend this one for anything more than just to finish up the trilogy. It just isn’t worth it, unless you’re a glutton for punishment.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Inglorious Basterds

Posted in Action/Adventure, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 29, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In 1941, SS Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) arrives at a dairy farm in France to interrogate Perrier LaPadite (Denis Menochet) about rumors he is hiding the Jewish Dreyfus family. Landa persuades the farmer to confess to hiding the family underneath his floor. Landa then orders the SS soldiers into the house to shoot the floorboards where they are hiding. The entire family is killed, except the teenage Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent), whom Landa allows to escape.

In the spring of 1944, Lt. Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) recruits a team of eight Jewish-American soldiers in Italy for a mission to get behind enemy lines and bring fear to all German servicemen. He tells the soldiers that they each owe him a hundred Nazi scalps. They operate with a “take no prisoners” attitude and come to be known as the ‘Basterds’. One survivor of an attack by the ‘Basterds’, Private Butz (Sönke Möhring), is interviewed by Adolf Hitler (Martin Wuttke). Butz’s account of the attack is shown in flashback: his squad was ambushed and his Sergeant was beaten to death with a baseball bat by Sgt. Donny Donowitz (Eli Roth), known by the Germans as “The Bear Jew”. Butz then reveals that Raine carved a swastika into his forehead with a knife.

In June 1944, Shosanna has assumed a new identity as ‘Emmanuelle Mimieux’ and is operating a cinema in Paris. She meets Fredrick Zoller (Daniel Brühl), a German sniper whose exploits are to be celebrated in a Nazi propaganda film, Stolz der Nation (Nation’s Pride). Zoller is attracted to Shosanna and convinces Joseph Goebbels (Sylvester Groth) to hold the premiere of his film at Shosanna’s cinema. Shosanna realizes that the presence of several high-ranking Nazi officials provides an opportunity for revenge and resolves to burn down the cinema during the premiere by using a large quantity of extremely flammable nitrate film. The British also learn of the premiere and dispatch Lt. Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender) to infiltrate the event aided by the ‘Basterds’ and German film actress and double agent, Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger). Hicox and two of the ‘Basterds’ meet with von Hammersmark at a tavern where a SS Major (August Diehl) notices Hicox’s odd accent and that he gives the wrong (non-German) three-fingered order for drinks. The resulting standoff erupts into a firefight, leaving everyone dead except von Hammersmark. Raine interrogates von Hammersmark, and upon learning that Hitler will be attending the premiere, devises a plan where he, Donny and Omar (Omar Doom) will pose as von Hammersmark’s Italian escorts at the premiere. Landa later investigates the tavern, retrieving von Hammersmark’s shoe and an autographed napkin.

At the premiere, Landa asks to see von Hammersmark privately, where he makes her try on the shoe. After proving that she is in league with the ‘Basterds’, he strangles her. He then orders Raine and Private Utivich (B. J. Novak) to be arrested. Landa makes a deal with Raine’s commanding officer to be granted a full military pension and American citizenship, in exchange for allowing Donny and Omar—still seated in the cinema—to kill the Nazi high command. During the film, Zoller goes to the projection room to see Shosanna and confronts her angrily due to multiple rejections of his advances from the beginning. When his back is turned, she shoots him multiple times, but he manages to shoot her dead before succumbing to his wounds. The film is then interrupted by an inserted close-up of Shosanna informing the audience that they are going to be killed by a Jew. At the same time, Shosanna’s employee and lover, Marcel (Jacky Ido), who has locked and bolted all the exits of the cinema, ignites the nitrate film stacked behind the screen. Omar and Donowitz successfully attack and kill Goebbels and Hitler, then shoot into the crowd of panicking Nazis until the timers on their bombs go off and destroy the cinema, killing everyone inside.

Landa and his radio operator drive Raine and Utivich to the American lines, and according to the deal, Landa surrenders to Raine and hands over his weapons, allowing Utivich to handcuff him. To Landa’s shock Raine then shoots the radio operator and orders Utivich to scalp the dead man. Raine then carves a swastika into Landa’s forehead, proclaiming that “this just might be my masterpiece.”

REVIEW:

Let me start this off by saying that I didn’t watch the entire film. Well, I did, but dozed off in parts. No excuses…just been a long week.

Is it me, or do there seem to be alot of Nazi this or that lately? What’s going on? It’s quite unsettling, if you ask me.

Inglorious Basterds is a fictional tale of a group of mercenary Jews who more or less turned the tables on the Nazis by killing them instead of the other way around. Quentin Tarrantino lives for this kind of morbidly violent stuff, and that is what people like about his films.

However, he does get a bit chatty with the dialogue. Kevin Smith does the same thing with his films, but at least the films move forward. Tarantino’s use of these long speeches an whatnot seem to stop the film dead in its track. This should have been a nice little action flick, and it was going on at a decent pace, then we get to these long expositions and it just takes the audience out of it. There was no reason this should have been 2 1/2 hrs. Well, I guess it could have been, but most of that runtime is due to the excessive talking, most of which has no bearing on the film, but just random words.

Christoph Waltz earned an Oscar for his role as Col. Hans Lander. At first, I was a bit skeptical, but he did do a pretty impressive job, so it was no wonder he won that award.

Brad Pitt as the leader of the basterds, Aldo Raine, complete with some kind of funky southern accent, really sells and hams it up (someone has to in a Tarantino picture, right?).

The action scenes are pretty nice and full of bloody splattering gun violence, which I have no problem, but I’m sure someone out there does.

I’ve read some reviews saying that this film is good, but has no moral value. WTF?!? This isn’t a Disney picture. There is no need for it to have a moral. The idea is just to have some fun with a dark part in history. Geez! Can no one take a joke these days, or does everything have to be strictly cut and dry. Ugh!!!!

I look forward to watching this film again (this time without dozing off in huge chunks). There are some things that I think would make more sense if I would have caught certain parts. I don’t belive this is Tarantino’s best work, and as I said,m he needs to get over his hard on for exposition, but it is a fun flick. Now, if you’re not a fan of gun violence, this isn’t the film for you, but for everyone else, what are you waiting for? Go check it out!

4 out of 5 stars

Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 29, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In 1987, obese, illiterate, 16-year-old Claireece “Precious” Jones (Gabourey Sidibe) lives in the ghetto of Harlem with her dysfunctional and abusive mother, Mary (Mo’Nique). She has been impregnated twice by her father, Carl, and suffers long term physical, sexual, and mental abuse from her unemployed mother. The family resides in a Section 8 tenement and subsists on welfare. Her first child, known only as “Lil Mongo”, has Down syndrome and is being cared for by Precious’ grandmother.

Following the discovery of Precious’ second pregnancy, she is suspended from school. Her junior high school principal arranges to have her attend an alternative school, which she hopes can help Precious change her life’s direction. Precious finds a way out of her traumatic daily existence through imagination and fantasy. While she is being raped by her father, she looks at the ceiling and imagines herself in a music video shoot in which she is the superstar and the focus of attention. While looking in photograph albums, she imagines the pictures talking to her. When she looks in the mirror, she sees a pretty, white, thin, blonde girl. In her mind, there is another world where she is loved and appreciated. Inspired by her new teacher, Blu Rain (Paula Patton), Precious begins learning to read. Precious meets sporadically with a social worker named Miss Weiss (Mariah Carey), who learns about incest in the household when Precious unwittingly conveys it to her. Precious gives birth to her second child and names him Abdul. While at the hospital, she meets John McFadden (Lenny Kravitz), a nursing assistant who shows kindness to her. After Mary deliberately drops three-day-old Abdul and hits Precious, Precious fights back long enough to get her son and flees her home permanently. Shortly after leaving the house, Precious breaks into her school classroom to get out of the cold and is discovered the following morning by Miss Rain. The teacher finds assistance for Precious, who begins raising her son in a halfway house while she continues academically.

Feeling dejected, Precious meets Miss Weiss at her office and steals her case file. Precious recounts the details of the file to her fellow students and has a new lease on life. Her mother comes back into her life to inform Precious that her father has died of AIDS. Later, Precious learns that she is HIV positive, but Abdul is not. Mary and Precious see each other for the last time in Miss Weiss’ office, where Weiss questions Mary about her abuse of Precious, and uncovers specific physical and sexual traumas Precious encountered, starting when she was three. The film ends with Precious still resolved to improve her life for herself and her children. She severs ties with her mother and plans to complete a General Educational Development test.

REVIEW:

This has to have been one of the most talked about films of the previous year. Personally, I had no intention of watching it. The subject matter seemed a bit to intense for my taste, and the film was just too serious looking. After some coercing and a couple of requests, I caved in and watched it this afternoon.

Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire is everything you expect it to be, but there are a couple of things to lighten the mood, such as Precious’ daydreams. When she zoned out, it reminded me of J.D. from Scrubs. Also, her classmates at the alternative school brought some much needed life to what was severely needing an injection of something.

Gabourey Sidibe shines in her debut as Precious. Talk about an introduction to Hollywood. This was not some fluff role. hopefully, she won’t disappear into obscurity, because it is obvious that she can act.

Like most people I was surprised to see Mo’Nique in this serious role, but more so that she really brought it with her performance. No wonder she won awards for it.

Other surprises to look for are Lenny Kravitz as the nurse and Mariah Carey (with apparently no makeup) as the social worker.

The pacing of this film, is ok for a drama, but for those of us with short attention spans, it seemed to drag on and not get anywhere until the birth of the second child, then it just seemed like it was tacking stuff on to make it longer.

I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know how close they kept to the source material, but I would’ve liked for them to have shown a bit more interaction with her classmates at the alternative school. It just seems as if that would have made the film a bit better, especially since they all showed up to support her in the hospital.

This is not a perfect film, but it is every bit as good as advertised.  I don’t typically go for the same films as the critics, but I did like this one, though I didn’t love it. I highly recommend this to anyone, but be warned, there are some strong themes through the film, that some may not be able to handle. That is also not to mention the cigarette smoking that seems to be a cardinal sin nowadays.

4 out of 5 stars

Se7en

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , on May 27, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In an unidentified city of near-constant rain and urban decay, the soon-to-be retiring Detective William R. Somerset (Freeman) is partnered with short-tempered Detective David Mills (Pitt) who recently transferred to the department. Somerset is eventually invited over to meet Mills’ wife, Tracy (Paltrow); when Somerset learns that she is pregnant but has not told her husband, he confides in her his fear that the city is no place to start a family, reiterating his own losses of his fiancée and unborn child years ago. Somerset advises her not to tell Mills just yet of their child.

Somerset and Mills investigate a series of crimes relating to the seven deadly sins, such as a man who was forced to feed himself to death to represent Gluttony. They find clues at the scene of the murders that connect to the other deaths, and believe they are chasing a serial killer. A set of fingerprints found at where the Greed murder occurred leads them to the apartment of a man, near death, who has been strapped to a bed for a year, representing Sloth. Though unable to learn anything from the delirious victim, the detectives agree that the serial murderer has been planning these killings for more than a year.

The detectives use library records for those that have checked out books on the deadly sins to track down a man named John Doe (Spacey). When Doe finds the detectives approaching his apartment, he fires a gun at them and flees, chased by Mills. Eventually, Doe gains the upper hand, holding Mills at gunpoint, but instead of harming Mills, he runs away. Investigation of the apartment finds numerous handwritten volumes of Doe’s irrational thoughts and clues leading to another potential victim. They arrive too late to find their Lust victim, a prostitute killed by an unwitting man who Doe forced at gunpoint to wear a bladed S&M device with which he simultaneously raped and killed the woman. Sometime later, they investigate the death of a young model, the victim of Pride. As they leave, Doe appears to them and offers himself for arrest, the blood of the model and of a second, unidentified person on his hands. When they question him in the presence of his lawyer, Doe bargains that he will lead the two detectives to the last two bodies and confess to the crimes, or otherwise will plead insanity. Though Somerset is worried, Mills agrees to the demand.

Doe directs the two detectives to a remote desert area far from the city, with Doe believing that his actions have helped to show the people what the world actually is and to punish the wicked, riling Mills further. After arriving at the location, a delivery van approaches; the scared driver tells the detectives he was paid to deliver a package precisely at this time and location, and is told to leave after handing it over. While Mills holds Doe at gunpoint, Somerset opens the package and recoils in horror at the sight of the contents. He races back, warning Mills not to listen to Doe, but Doe reveals to Mills that the box contains Tracy’s head. Mills, distraught, demands an explanation from Doe; Doe simply replies that he himself represents the sin of Envy, jealous of Mills’ wife, and then reveals her pregnancy to Mills. Somerset is unable to contain Mills as he unloads his gun into Doe, becoming the embodiment of Wrath and proving out Doe’s plan. After a catatonic Mills is taken away, Somerset is asked where he will be and responds, “around”, suggesting he will not go through with his retirement. The film ends with the sun setting over the desert, with Somerset quoting Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls:

‘The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.’ I agree with the second part.

REVIEW:

So, here we go with another of these suspense films. I have to say that this is definitely not my genre of choice.

Se7en is about a serial killer who plans out his murders and kills his victims using one of the 7 deadly sins. For example the first victim was a morbidly obese man who apparently had some kind of heart attack while eating. This was gluttony.

Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt play off each other very well. Freeman playing the hardened outgoing detective and Pitt as the rough around the edges “new school” detective who is coming in to more or less replace Freeman. Their relationship is a bit rocky at the start, but after a chance dinner with Pitt’s wife, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, who I feel was wasted here, things take a turn for the best.

Kevin Spacey has always been able to play a convincing villain, and this is no exception. Although I do wonder what was it that caused him to turn himself in like he did. It takes real talent to pull of a convincing douchebag murderer the way Spacey does, that’s for sure.

This is a very cerebral film. It really makes you think. For a good part of the film, I was thinking that it would turn out that Pitt was the one behind it all.

The pacing could be better, but I’ve learned that in this genre pacing is a moot point as all aspects of each angle have to be covered.

Many people love Se7en. I’m not one of those people. I just couldn’t really get into it for some reason. Not to say that this was a bad picture, it just didn’t strike my fancy. However, if you’re one of those that like these suspense features, then by all means, check it out. There is no reason you’ll be disappointed.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Aliens in the Attic

Posted in Comedy, Family, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

It all starts as a meteor shower rockets across the dark galaxy. Four glowing pods sparkle and crackle while hiding behind the meteor show. A mysterious force makes the meteor shower turn a hard right towards a bright blue ball in the distance – planet Earth.

In a comfortable suburban house in Michigan, Stuart Pearson (Kevin Nealon) and his wife Nina (Gillian Vigman) head a family that includes adorable seven-year-old Hannah (Ashley Boettcher); 15-year-old Tom (Carter Jenkins), a techno-geek whose grades have gone south; and older sister Bethany (Ashley Tisdale), who’s just returned from a secret outing with boyfriend Ricky Dillman (Robert Hoffman).

Deciding the family needs some good old-fashioned togetherness, Stuart packs up the clan and heads to a three-story holiday house in the middle of nowhere. Joining them is Uncle Nate (Andy Richter), Nate’s son Jake (Butler), Nana Rose (Doris Roberts), and identical 11-year-old twins Art (Henri Young) and Lee (Regan Young). An unexpected arrival is Bethany’s beau Ricky, who wrangles an overnight visit with the extended family.

As day turns to night, dark storm clouds start swirling around the house. Suddenly, four glowing objects shoot toward the roof. The alien crew inside the objects is made up of Skip, the tough commander, Tazer, a muscle-bound dude armed to the teeth, Razor, a lethal female alien soldier; and Sparks a four-armed techie, who is the only non-threatening alien intruder.

Ricky and Tom are sent to fix the satellite for the TV because the aliens crashed into it. Ricky then reveals to Tom that he lied about everything he said to his family, like his car broke down, his parents own a beach house, he’s 18. Ricky is actually in college, and he’s at least 5 years older than Bethany. Ricky is placed under the control of the aliens, courtesy of a high-tech mind-control device and plug implanted into the base of his skull; Ricky’s mind and actions now belong to the alien crew. The alien “Zirkonians,” via Ricky, lay claim to the planet (when asked why they didn’t just say it themselves Skip responds, “This way is more fun.”) Like a puppet/robot/zombie, Ricky moves towards the boys – but Tom and Jake break free.

It isn’t long before all five kids see the strange new arrivals. Tom takes charge and the kids come to realize the alien mind control device only works on grownups, giving them a fighting chance against the invaders — and the responsibility to protect the adults by keeping the aliens’ existence a secret. Left to their own devices, the kids unleash their imaginations, creating makeshift weapons, like piping ingeniously rigged as a home made potato spud gun. They even learn to use the mind controller. Their first order of business is to take control of Ricky and turn his actions against himself and the aliens.

The adults remain oblivious to the alien presence, and insist that the youngsters partake in a fishing expedition. Meanwhile, a friendship is struck between Hannah and Sparks, the friendly alien with four arms and hands. Unlike his alien cohorts, Sparks has no stomach for battle; he just wants to return home to his Zirkonian family. Nana Rose comes under the control of the alien mind control device, which gives her super-human strength and agility. Under the control of the kids, she comes to their rescue and has to fight off Ricky, who is again under alien control. Nana gives Ricky a huge jolt causing the alien plug to dislodge and Ricky breaks up with Bethany because in his opinion she talks about feelings and family all the time. The kids reveal to Bethany what’s going on, and Sparks helps by making weapons so the kids can fight on. Sparks reveals that what the aliens want from their planet is a device under the basement which makes them giant sized. The kids destroy Skip, Tazer & Razor. Sparks calls off the invasion and returns home. The rest of the vacation goes back to normal, except the kids grew closer to each other during their adventure. When they get home, Ricky starts visiting his old girlfriend, but Bethany and Tom take advantage of him using the mind control device. His ex throws him out of the house, leaving him wondering what happened in those last 5 minutes.

REVIEW:

When I saw the trailers for this film last year, it immediately brought to mind that film from a while back, Small Soldiers. Admittedly, I actually thought this was some kind of remake. I was mistaken…to an extent.

Aliens in the Attic is a lighter film than Small Soldiers, with the exception of the subplot of the issues between the father and son. That was a bit too much for a light family film for my taste.

The aliens here are diminutive and deranged. As with most alien races, they seem to be hellbent on destroying the human race for some unknown reason. The exception is the one voice of reason in their crew, Sparks.

The kids seem to be your typical rebellious type that are trapped with their parents on vacation. The thing about them is that they aren’t that great actors.

A surprise for me was Ashley Tisdale. I honestly thought all she could do was Disney stuff like High School Musical and Suite Life of Zack & Cody.

A highlight of this flick was seeing Doris Roberts doing kung fu. Otherwise, she was a bit wasted. Why would you cast such a comedic icon as her to only waddle around on a cane? Seems to me they could have given her more.

The aliens themselves are kind of…I dunno…odd looking, and not in a good way. They look as if someone took some clay, started to make something, then stopped. I didn’t care for their look.

I guess if you have kids, they’ll like this. For those of you expecting a good alien flick, this isn’t for you. There are so many much better alien flicks out there. Still, I’m not going to condemn this picture. It has its good points, and I would watch it again, so sure, check it out.

3 out of 5 stars

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonley Hearts Club Band

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The original Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band performed during WWI in France, as the Allies’ “most effective weapon.” Their melodies cheered troops engaged in battle and stopped hostilities, leading to their receiving the coveted Golden Eagle Award. Back at their hometown of Heartland, they continued performing through the Roaring ’20’s, the Depression, and through another Great War, until the demise of the bandleader in 1958. He left his magical instruments to the town of Heartland. These items have the power to make dreams come true, and as long as they remained in the town’s possession, humanity would live happily foreverafter. He left his wholesome grandson, Billy Shears, (Peter Frampton) his Golden Eagle and musical legacy. The town’s venerable mayor, Mr. Kite (George Burns) tells the tale of the new Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club band, consisting of Billy, his best friends, Mark, Dave, and Bob Henderson (The Bee Gees), and managed by his jealous stepbrother, Dougie Shears (Paul Nicholas).

The new band debuts in their wholesome small town one sunny summer day, introduced by money-hungry Dougie. Dave, Mark, and Bob start off the performance, joined by Billy after he shares a brief moment with his sweetheart, Strawberry Fields (Sandy Farina). Townsfolk of all ages instantly take to the boys, who receive a telegram from Big Deal Records requesting a demo tape, with the promise of big success. Mr. Kite briefly imagines himself as a superstar, performing a number in the town square, alone except for two little girls who join his jaunty dance.

The town’s magical weather vane picks up a strange signal, the arrival of Mean Mr. Mustard (Frankie Howerd). His mission: to Take Over Heartland. He is apparently directed by the FVB, who reminds him: We hate love; We hate joy; We love money. The band is recording their demo tape at a farm near town as he arrives. Back in Hollywood, Big Deal’s B.D. Hoffler (Donald Pleasence) hears the tape and begins his plan to sign them to his label. The band is summoned to Hollywood immediately, giving Billy and Strawberry scant time for tender goodbyes. They share one night in the farm’s hayloft before the band’s hasty departure.

Arriving in L.A. by Big Deal’s private jet, the band is welcomed personally by B.D. and his sexy assistant, Lucy (Dianne Steinberg). They are transported by stretch El Camino to B.D.’s mansion, where the naive bandmates are immediately corrupted by liquor, drugs, and women. Later that evening, the intoxicated boys are duped into signing B.D.’s exploitive contract. The next morning they commence recording sessions, leading to instant superstardom with sold-out concerts, intense media coverage, and enormous record sales. During their rise to success, B.D. requires Lucy and her backup singers, the Diamonds (Stargard) to control the band by exerting their evil and sexual influence.

Back in Heartland, Strawberry pines for Billy while Mr. Mustard steals the magical instruments from Mr. Kite’s office at City Hall. Mustard begins his mission to deliver the instruments to various villainous characters. Without the protection of the instruments, Heartland instantly degenerates into a den of iniquity.

Strawberry leaves home in pursuit of her beloved Billy, leaving her parents heartbroken in her absence. Mr. Mustard’s robots alert him and his Brute (Carel Struyken) of Strawberry’s departure. When she arrives in L.A., she sees a billboard showing Billy and the rest of the band, next to another featuring Lucy and the Diamonds. Both billboards come to life. The women’s seductive performance lures the men into their embrace, horrifying the distraught Strawberry. When she momentarily turns away, the billboards return to their inanimate states.

The next day, Strawberry arrives at the band’s recording session, witnessing some flirtatious glances between Billy and Lucy. B.D. and Dougie try to get rid of her, but she is able to get in and explain the treachery that has befallen Heartland. Mr. Mustard arrives moments later, and the band accosts his van in an effort to recover the stolen instruments. The van’s computer indicates the first instrument went to Dr. Maxwell Hammer (Steve Martin), a cheerfully deranged and money-driven physician. Billy, Mark, Dave, Bob, and Strawberry make haste to Dr. Hammer’s office and retrieve Sgt. Pepper’s silver cornet after a non-contact fight sequence. They find the drum in the van, then seek Father Sun (Alice Cooper) for the tuba. In his Orwellian lair, he drums the message, “We Hate Love; We Hate Joy; We Love Money” into the heads of militant young cadets. The band and Strawberry retrieve the tuba, but Billy is injured by an electrical shock. Back safely in the van, Strawberry lovingly tends to the unconscious Billy. He dreams of her, then revives at the sound of her beautiful singing.

Mark Henderson, working at the van’s computer, causes a malfunction and cannot retrieve the location of the final missing instrument. Heartland continues to deteriorate into desperate circumstances. B.D. is forced to cancel several tour dates, but Dougie suggests a huge benefit concert to save the town.

One day, as the townsfolk drudge through the town, bewildered at its delapidated state, they are surprised by the arrival of a singing and acrobatic troupe, anchored by Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band and the lovely Strawberry Fields. Mr. Kite, along with the rest of the town, is cheered at this fortunate turn of events. B.D., Dougie, and Lucy are pleased at their business cunning in exploiting the situation for financial gain. Dougie and Lucy go into City Hall, where the day’s proceeds are stored and load up a wheelbarrow with several bags of money. They transfer the money into the van’s refrigerator as Earth, Wind and Fire perform the evening show for the town, Billy and the Hendersons enjoy front-row seats. Mr. Mustard and the Brute get to town and find the van. They kidnap Strawberry and drag her into the van, then drive off. Dougie and Lucy manage to hide in the van without being discovered. The band sees the departing van and sets off in hot pursuit via the town’s hot air balloon.

Mustard was headed for FVB Central with the recovered instruments where the evil genius would suppress the magical instruments and make the world safe for his legions. Unless the band could arrive first and stop them. Mustard, who has admired Strawberry all along, attempts to woo her via serenade in her bound-and-gagged state. Soon, the balloon comes into view, and Dougie and Lucy try to escape the van with some of their lot., They are discovered and led into FVB Central along with Strawberry, then tied up and forced to endure a performance by FVB – Future Villain Band (Aerosmith). Billy and the Hendersons break into the complex and wrestle FVB into submission, killing the evil genius (Steve Tyler). Unfortunately, Strawberry falls to her death in the struggle.

Back in Heartland, the cleaned-up town mourns the loss of Strawberry Fields, who lies in state in a coffin of clear glass engraved with Heartland’s signature hearts. Billy, Dougie, and the Hendersons are all pallbearers. Mr. Kite questions whether it was worth the loss in order to restore the town. Leaving the church after her service, Billy sadly walks off for some time alone, remembering the good times he shared with Strawberry. He then attempts suicide by jumping from a rooftop. As he falls, the Heartland Weather Vane (Billy Preston) comes to life and returns him to the rooftop. Billy Shears is not only saved, but apparently cured of his depression by this surprising turn of events.

The Magical Weather Vane then changes Mr. Mustard and the Brute into a bishop and a monk; Dougie and Lucy into an altar boy and a nun. Next, he brings a hale and hearty Strawberry Fields back to life. She runs to Billy and they embrace warmly in a fairy tale ending.

The townsfolk are joined by dozens of celebrity guests of 1970’s fame for a rollicking and joyful finale, in a tribute to the cover of the original Beatles album that inspired the film.

REVIEW:

I’ll admit that I was very disappointed with this film from the get go. I tend to look at the film’s trailers before I watch them, and to find out that The Beatles did not appear in this film, kind of took me out of it. Although, I will say Aerosmith and Earth, Wind,  Fire were a suitable stand-in for me, but just not the same. When you expect to see The BEatles, you want to see The Beatles.

That was just the start of my disappointment. This thing is a rock opera. The few films of this genre that I’ve been privy to watch have not done it for me. As a matter of fact, they struggle to keep my attention. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is no exception.

I’m not a huge fan of The Beatles, but I do really like their music. One of the reasons I even bothered to watch this was my hope that there would be plenty of music. True, there was plenty of it, but it was done in such a way as to not keep my interest.

I don’t want to make it seem like the film is without its good points. The casting of popular music acts of the time, such as The Bee Gees, Earth, Wind, & Fire, Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, etc., was great. It was kind of like a passing of the torch, if you will. Also, George Burns, who was the only one to speak in the entire film, served as a great narrator.

Although some may find the cheesiness of the flick a bit off-putting, I actually liked it, but that’s just my taste.

I really wanted to like this film, if not love it, but just can’t. This was just not what I expected. It’s not without its good points, but for me, the negatives outweigh the positives. I can recommend this to you, but be aware that the only remnants of The Beatles are covers of their songs. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band isn’t totally awful, but I felt it could have been served better as a musical rather than a rock opera. Dialogue works wonders!

2 1/2 out of 5 stars