Archive for August 11, 2010

Hot Tub Time Machine

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In 2010 Los Angeles, three friends are dissatisfied with their lives. Adam (John Cusack) has been dumped by yet another girlfriend, and his video-game-obsessed nephew Jacob (Clark Duke) lives in his basement. Lou (Rob Corddry) is a party guy way past his prime who is ridden with debt, divorce and a family that wants nothing to do with him. Nick (Craig Robinson) has a dead-end job at a dog spa and a controlling wife named Courtney (Kellee Stewart) who had an affair.

Lou almost dies from carbon monoxide poisoning in what his friends think is a suicide attempt. Adam and Nick impulsively take him and Jacob to the site of some of their most memorable weekends, the Kodiak Valley Ski Resort, which has fallen on hard times. During a crazy night of drinking in a hot tub, they spill a can of an illegal Russian energy drink called “Chernobly” on the hot tub’s controls. The next day, they wake up in 1986. They see each other as their normal age, but in their reflections and to other people, they appear as they did in 1986. Jacob, who has not even been born yet, is still in his normal 2010 state. They arrive during “Winterfest ’86,” the weekend when Poison played to a huge crowd at the then-thriving Kodiak Resort. At first, the guys do not think that they have traveled back in time but are convinced when they find out that Michael Jackson’s skin has not become lighter yet.

It is a time that was hard on the group. Adam broke up with his first girlfriend and got stabbed in the eye with a fork. Adam’s sister, Kelly, conceived Jacob with an unknown father. Lou was beaten up by Blaine, the ski patrol bully. Nick’s show ended in disaster with his band at an open mic contest. The four are at first concerned that if they change even the slightest thing in this time, it could have drastic consequences in the future, so they set out to do exactly what they did 24 years ago. Later, they decide that this may be a chance to change their destinies. When Jacob begins to flicker in and out of existence, he warns the guys that if they continue what they’re doing, then he may be wiped out of existence. A mysterious hot tub repairman (Chevy Chase) informs Jacob that the key to their time travel was the Chernobly, which contains chemicals that are vital to the time travel process.

Nick calls Courtney (his then 9-year-old wife) and yells at her. Her dad interrupts the conversation and Adam and Jacob stop Nick from telling him that Courtney is his wife. Adam’s girlfriend, Jennie (Lyndsy Fonseca), dumps him before he can dump her (and he still gets stabbed in the eye with a fork), but he ends up spending the night with a music journalist, April (Lizzy Caplan). With Lou’s encouragement, Nick rocks the crowd with his band with performances of “Jessie’s Girl” and “Let’s Get It Started.” Lou is beaten up by Blaine (Sebastian Stan), but finds the courage to punch him back. He also seduces Kelly (Collette Wolfe) and conceives Jacob.

The guys are set to go back to 2010, but, just as the hot tub starts to activate, Lou decides to remain in 1986, admitting to Adam that he was trying to kill himself, and that if he goes back it will happen all over again. He says he wants to use his knowledge of future history to make investments, and do right by Kelly and Jacob. Adam says that if Lou is staying, so is he but Lou pushes Adam into the hot tub, just as it blasts the guys back into 2010.

Adam, Nick, and Jacob discover that Lou, Kelly, and Jacob are now a happy family enjoying a lavish lifestyle. Lou has become a successful rock star with his favorite band, “Mötley Lüe” and is the founder of an Internet search engine called “Lougle”. Adam discovers that he eventually married April, and Nick is a successful music producer married to a loyal and supportive Courtney. She tells him about a wrong number phone call she got when she was 9, that was enough to keep her from trying to cheat on anybody. Adam, Nick, Lou, and Jacob reunite at Lou’s mansion with their families, satisfied with their new lives.

REVIEW:

With a title like Hot Tub Time Machine, do you really expect this to be anything more than a hilarious comedy? If you do, then you will be sadly mistaken.

Remember how movies from the 80s began, with some kind of rock riff going on through some random images while the credits rolled? Well, you get those in this flick, which I thought was a nice homage to the 80s, especially since they bitch about going back there.

While this is a comedy, it wasn’t a total laugh riot. Like many comedies of today, it starts out full speed, then somewhere in the middle it becomes a drama and by the time it recovers, the movie is over. Is it so wrong to have a film that doesn’t get serious. A comedy should be a comedy, but that’s just my opinion.

So, the plot revolves around these 3 guys who were best friends in high school. Somewhere along the line they drifted apart, but still live in the same town together and have kept in touch enough to know that each other are still alive. When one of them attempts suicide, it brings them back together and they (with John Cusack’s character’s nephew) take a trip to a ski resort where they had the best time of their lives. This is where they get drunk, jump in a hot tub and it takes them back in time to 1986. How it knew to go back there is a mystery to everyone but the writers, but sometimes you just have to go with it and stop trying to analyze everything, right?

They also never explain why they went back as their younger selves, and what happened to said younger selves. Nor did they truly explain how the nephew didn’t become like an egg or something when they went back. That’s more stuff that would be nice to be explained, but just needs to be overlooked, even if it is  sort of a major plothole.

If you’ve seen Pleasantville, then you may remember Don Knotts’ cryptic handyman character. Well, Hot Tub Time Machine has one of its own, in the form of a hot tub repairman, played by Chevy Chase. Just like with Knotts, he helps move the story along and explains what happened…or does he?

Even with all the stuff that isn’t explained, you can’t help but stare in awe at how they captured 1986 perfectly. The only thing missing were someone wearing a “Frankie Says Relax” t-shirt and/or something dealing with Max Headroom.

Casting on its own sucks, but these guys together make a really good ensemble. I mean, who thinks of John Cusack as a comedic actor, but this character works for him, and he is the serious, straight man of the group.

Comedians Rob Corddry and Craig Robinson do what they do best and really make this film.

Clark Duke, who played the nephew, annoyed the living daylights out of me. First off, he bitched and moaned the whole time about not having his computer or other gadgets and wanting to get home…pretty much same kind of things that if you were to take anyone who grew up in the 90s and later would say. On top of that, this guy was just such a downer, and I’m still not exactly sure why they took him along. The guy is 20 years old, are you gonna tell me he couldn’t stay at home for a few days by himself? WTF?!?

A diamond in the rough, though, was Crispin Glover. When we first see him, he’s a grumpy one-armed bell boy, but when they go back in time, we find out that he was quite the nice, personable guy. Like Rob Corddry’s character, though, I was waiting for the moment where we got to see his arm cut off, but the anticipation and situations is what made him such an interesting character to watch.

For some unknown reason, people keep comparing this to The Hangover. I’m not sure what the reason for this is, but they are both hilarious. I give a slight edge to Hot Tub Time Machine. This is just one of those great films that is plain funny. That’s all it is. It’s not trying to be some kind of social commentary or anything like that, it is just plain enjoyable. For that reason alone, it is worth watching, so give it a shot.

5 out of 5 stars

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New Orleans

Posted in Classics, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

As owner of a Bourbon Street gambling club, Nick Duquesne (Arturo De Cordova) sits at the center of the New Orleans jazz scene. His scruffy charm — and the city’s beguiling music — is too much for a new girl in town (Dorothy Patrick). Little by little, she falls in love and helps transform Nick’s talents into something more respectable. Jazz legends Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday sizzle in their roles as the club’s top-billed stars

REVIEW:

First of all, let me clear up that this is not some new film about Hurricane Katrina or anything else that has afflicted New Orleans recently, but rather a lesser known classic film that tells the story of how ragtime made its way up the mighty Mississp to Chicago and spread across the world to become jazz. Also, there is a somewhat of a love story here, not to mention various other aspects of life in the early 20 century (1917 to be precise).

The main reason I chose to view New Orleans was because of Louis Armstrong, I won’t lie to you. Little did I know that I’d actually like this film, and not because ol’ Pops has a pretty big role, but it is quite enjoyable.

If you’ve seen just about any film from the 40s, then you know that they pretty much all involve some gambler-type who falls in love with a well-to-do society type girl. Yeah, that happens here, too,but they don’t get married 5 minutes later, unlike in other films. Instead, the guy goes and makes a name for himself up north, after being kicked out of New Orleans, that is.

While the plot may be a bit clichéd and predictable, I had no issue with it. I’m on of those people who believes if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Rest assured, if this wouldn’t have worked, I’d be letting you all know about it, that’s for sure.

I’m a little disappointed in the way the music was treated. No, they did do anything bad to it (like they do nowadays), but it took a backseat to the plot. So, here you have a movie about New Orleans, with an all-star jazz band headed by none other than the all-time greatest, Louis Armstrong. On top of that, you have Billie Holiday and Woody Herman in the film as well, and you can’t get more than 2 or 3 songs out of them (“Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans” was played in almost every scene!). I know they could have done better than that.

Someone brought up a point in a review I read about this film. Near the end, Woody Herman’s band “whitewashes” (his word, not mine) the Chicago jazz sound, but it is never said how it happened or what they thought about it. Now, I’m not going to sit here and get into all that, but that did seem rather odd and makes one think what was the real reason.

New Orleans was ok, but I expected more, especially in terms of music. However, there was plenty of Satchmo, which is alway a plus. Not to mention the immortal Billie Holiday flexed her pipes a bit. The story is ok, but I thought it could have been better written, even for this era. Having said all that, I would recommend this to anyone who’s in the mood for a classic drama that includes a cliffnote version of how ragtime became jazz.

4 out of 5 stars

Michael Jackson’s This Is It

Posted in Movie Reviews with tags , on August 11, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The film begins with a short text introduction stating the purpose of the footage and its intent “For the fans…”. After short dialogues from various dancers, Kenny Ortega is heard talking through the original concert opening sequence involving a body suit made from screens which display fast clips and images with bright intensity from which Jackson emerges on stage. Immediately after this, Jackson begins “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” first solo, which pauses half-way through and a small snippet of Jackson singing his song “Speechless” acapella is shown. Jackson is then joined by dancers and completes the first number. A short clip showing rehearsals of the “toaster” mechanism is shown before rehearsal footage of “Jam” is played. This plays directly into the green screen adaptation of soldiers dancers for “Bad” which are also used for “They Don’t Care About Us” which is shown next. From here, the film shows Michael directing Ortega and his band for his solo rehearsal performance of “Human Nature” which he performs acapella, then acoustic and finally with full band. Green screen rehearsals for the video vignette for “Smooth Criminal” come next (with scenes from the film Gilda like the one where Rita Hayworth sings “Put the Blame on Mame”),with dress rehearsals of the song following, including parts of the vignette intertwined with the dancing. Jackson is seen next directing his musical team for the cues in his song “The Way You Make Me Feel.” Jackson then performs a rehearsal with dancers which he alters and changes as he goes. Jackson then rehearses The Jackson 5 songs: “I Want You Back”, “The Love You Save”, “I’ll Be There” and “Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)”. After this, Jackson sings with Judith Hill, one of his back up singers, on his duet song “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” in which he sings at full strength, directing his partner as he goes. The filming for the “Thriller” vignette is then shown with Jackson and Ortega watching with 3D glasses. Jackson is then seen rehearsing “Thriller” with the vignette intertwined like that in “Smooth Criminal”. Footage of the show’s aerialists rehearsing to the instrumental of “Who Is It” is shown next.

During the dance sequence, puppets are suspended in the audience aisles while Jackson emerges from a robotic spider originally seen in the vignette. Jackson and Ortega rehearsing the cherry-picker is seen next, along with Jackson rehearsing “Beat It”. Footage of Jackson and the band rehearsing “Black or White” is shown next, in which he instructs his band to skip the second verse and later allows guitarist Orianthi Panagaris to take center stage to finish with a high guitar riff. The video-sequence for “Earth Song” is shown next, featuring a little girl who wanders through a forest, falls asleep, and wakes up to find the forest destroyed by man. Jackson then performs the song, with his voice being heard at the end telling of the dangers of Global Warming and the lack of reversible time left. He then performs a quick version of his song “Billie Jean”. Michael is then seen talking to all crew members and wishing everyone the best for the London performances. At a sound check, Michael performs “Man in the Mirror” with strong backing vocals. The credits are shown next, with a montage of rehearsal clips and “This Is It” being played in the background. After the show, a live recording of “Heal the World” was played. Then, the audio of “Human Nature” was played, with a clip of Michael rehearsing it on his last day. Then, a clip of what could have been a Dome Project video of “Heal the World” was shown, in which the girl that appeared in the “Earth Song” video was shown holding the world and a signed message, by Michael, saying “I Love You”

REVIEW:

Last year, we lost arguably the greatest entertainer ever to grace the stage. In his memory, footage from various rehearsals of what was to be his final tour was put together and the result was Michael Jackson’s This Is It.

There isn’t much to this film, to be honest with you. It isn’t a film like Moonwalker or a mockumentary like Madonna did with…I think it was Erotica, but don’t quote me. This is just behind the scenes rehearsal footage.

Yeah, that sounds boring, but the thing is you get to listen to Michael’s music and see how he worked. I kind of wish they would have done something like this when he was at his peak back in the 80s. Man, that would have been truly a sight to see. Can you imagine the behind the scene special that would have resulted from the Motown 25 rehearsal. Wow!

There are those that say this film was made just to capitalize on his death and make a quick buck. I’m not going to get into all that. Yes, I believe that has something to do with the release of this, but the alternative would probably have resulted in some half-assed biopic that was rushed into production and shoved into theaters. I think we got the better end of the bargain.

If you’re a fan of Michael Jackson’s music, then you’ll be captivated by this film, even if it isn’t that interesting on its own. In a manner similar to Fantasia and film of its ilk, the music is what keeps you interested. This is a fitting tribute to a man who has provided so much joy and entertainment to generations and is a must-see for any MJ fan.

5 out of 5 stars