Archive for August 18, 2010

Too Hot to Handle

Posted in Classics, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , on August 18, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The plot revolves around Johnny Solo (Leo Genn), the owner of the Pink Flamingo club in London’s Soho area, and his battles with rival club owner Diamonds Dielli (Sheldon Lawrence) and the police. When the tough entrepreneur starts getting threats and demands for protection, he fights back.

Johnny’s girlfriend Midnight Franklin (Mansfield), one of the club’s headliners, wants to get him out of the business. In the background are a sadistic client, an underage chorus girl, a wisecracking siren who’s not averse to rough trade, a visiting journalist, and a dancer who guards her past.

The reporter gets involved in the strip scene while writing a story on the clubs, and in the end he has quite a lot to write about. The competition between the two clubs heats up. Johnny becomes an unknowing instrument in the death of the chorus girl. Midnight informs on him to save his life from the violent blackmailers after him. Both rival clubs head for a crash.

REVIEW:

As a huge fan of Jayne Mansfield, I was excited to see her in this film. I had heard it was one of those times where she really showed off her acting chops, and wasn’t running around like a wanna be Marilyn Monroe. I have to say that I was a bit disappointed, though. Not with Jayne, but with the lack of her screentime and the way this film turned out.

Before I begin, I want to make it perfectly clear that I was not exactly in a generous mood when this came in the mail. Usually the mail runs around 4:30, but because of the new mailman (who looks like he retired from another job somewhere years ago and just got tired of sitting at home) apparently doesn’t know the route, it got here at 8:30! Needless to say, I was none too happy, as this throws off my schedule.

All that aside, I finally got over my anger at his tardiness and watched this picture. From my understanding, it was actually released in color back in 1960, but somewhere along the lines when it came to DVD, they put it back in black and white. Personally, I don’t care either way, but looking at some of the costumes, I can imagine how brilliant they would’ve looked in full 1960 color.

The plot to this thing I couldn’t follow. I know it had to do with some gangsters, but none of the characters are really developed enough to make them worthwhile.

The best thing about this flick is the various stage scenes that had to be more than risqué at the time. Quite honestly, these are the only thing that kept my attention.

An interesting figure to watch for is a young Christopher Lee. He doesn’t have the booming, deep voice he has now, as he is quite young here, but he does play a major role.

Jayne Mansfield puts on quite a performance in comparison to her other roles. However, she seems sort of lifeless and out of sorts. I mean, she plays her character extremely well, but for some reason, it just felt uncomfortable. I don’t know, maybe that was just me, though.

Another person to watch is Barbara Windsor. Her youthful looks and exuberance light up the screen and make the audience wish for more.

Too Hot to Handle should have been called Too Cold to Hold because this film noir wannabe is just that…a wannabe. It doesn’t develop into a mystery flick, or a gangster tale. If anything, they might as well have extended the dancing scenes and labeled this as soft core porn (for the time), because that was pretty much all it was good for. While the flick is far from being subpar, it just doesn’t gel enough or keep my attention, which is a major negative. This why I can’t recommend this film as high as I would like. It is nothing more than an average to below average pice of classic filmmaking. No wonder no one talks about this film.

3 out of 5 stars

Brother Bear

Posted in Animation, Disney, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 18, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The film is set in a post-ice age North America, where the local tribesmen believe all creatures are created through the Spirits, who are said to appear in the form of an aurora. Three brothers, Kenai, Denahi and Sitka, return to their tribe in order for Kenai to receive his sacred totem, its meaning being what he must achieve to call himself a man. Unlike Sitka, who gained the eagle of guidance, and Denahi who gained the wolf wisdom, Kenai receives the bear of love, much to his objections, stating that bears are thieves. His point is made a fact when a bear steals some salmon. Kenai and his brothers pursue the bear, but a fight follows on an glacier, Sitka giving his life to save his brothers, although the bear survives. Vengeful, Kenai heads out to avenge Sitka. He chases the bear up onto a mountain and kills it, unaware that the mountain is where the Spirits make contact with the Earth. The Spirits, represented by Sitka’s spirit in the form of a bald eagle, transforms Kenai into a bear. Denahi arrives, mistaking Kenai for dead, and his bear form is responsible for it, vows to avenge Kenai.

Kenai falls down some river rapids, survives, and is healed by Tanana, the shaman of Kenai’s tribe. She does not speak the bear language, but advises him to return to the mountain to find Sikta and be turned back to normal. Kenai quickly discovers the wildlife can talk, meeting two brother mooses, Rutt and Took. He gets caught in a trap, but is freed by a chatty bear cub named Koda. The two bears make a deal, Kenai will go with Koda to a nearby salmon run and then the cub will lead Kenai to the mountain. The two eventually form a sibling-like bond, Koda revealing his mother is missing. The two are hunted by Denahi who fails multiple times to kill Kenai, still unaware that he is his brother. Rutt and Took run into the bears multiple times, the group hitching a ride on a herd of mammoths to quicken the pace to the salmon run, but the moose are left behind when the bears move on. Kenai and Koda escape Denahi again, and reach the salmon run, where a large number of bears live as a family, including the leader Tug, a black bear. Kenai becomes very much at home and at content with the other bears. During a discussion among the bears, Koda tells a story about his mother fighting human hunters, making Kenai realize he killed Koda’s mother.

Guilty and horrified, Kenai runs away but Koda soon finds him. Kenai subtly reveals the truth to Koda, who runs away grief-stricken. An apologetic Kenai leaves to reach the mountain. Rutt and Took, having fallen out, reform their brotherhood in front of Koda, prompting him to go after Kenai. Denahi confronts Kenai on the mountain, but their fight is intervened by Koda who steals Denahi’s hunting pike. Kenai goes to Koda’s aid out of love, prompting Sitka to appear and turn him back into a human, much to Denahi and Koda’s surprise. However, Kenai asks Sitka to transform him back into a bear so he can look after Koda. Sitka complies, and Koda is reunited briefly with the spirit of his mother, before she and Sitka return to the Spirits. In the end, Kenai lives with the rest of the bears and gains his title as a man, through being a bear.

REVIEW:

I always have found it difficult to watch the “post-Renaissance” Disney films, because they seem to have no heart, soul, and appear to have been made just because they were in the already in production before someone decided that everyone wanted to see computer animation as opposed to the classic hand drawn stuff. There are exceptions to this rule, but Brother Bear is not one.

This film has it’s moments, but they all seem recycled and/or borrowed from other animated tales. The only thing that may be original is the whole thing about the big brother turning Kenai into a bear, but even that doesn’t exactly sit well with me. I feel like I’ve seen that before somewhere. Maybe not in that exact context, but it feels as if it had been done.

This is the point where Brother Bear fails to connect with the audience. True, the story is actually touching, especially when it is reveled that the bear Kenai killed was Koda’s mother, but with all the unoriginal elements, it starts to die a slow and painful death.

What makes it worse is that there was nothing here to really capture my attention. Sure Koda was cute and hyper, and Rutt and Took were obvious comic relief, but none of them made me sit up and want to not leave my seat everytime they were on the screen. Characters that have done that in previous Disney films are Mushu, Genie, Sebastian, Lumiere, Creeper, etc.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that, in a manner similar to Pocahontas, this film just gets too serious, and it really does. If not for the montage when Koda and Kenai meet up with the other bears at the salmon run, this thing might as well have just been an animated drama. Even the comic relief wasn’t very comical.

There are a few good things about this picture, though. For instance, the animation, as with everything Disney, is sensational, topped with the sequences involving the spirits and the lights.

Phil Collins’ score and songs, while not in musical form, do help move the film along. I think it would have been better if this was a musical like the good ol Disney flicks, but hey, that’s just me.

Brother Bear fails to deliver an entertaining film, but at the same time it does manage to tell a captivating tale complete with a good moral. This is far from being my favorite Disney flick. As a matter of fact, it may very well, be near the bottom. For me, it just wasn’t good enough. Maybe I just hold Disney to higher standards or something, but this just didn’t deliver the goods. Still, I would recommend it to those that are in the mood for a hand drawn animated flick, even if it is barely average.

3 out of 5 stars

Kazaam

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , on August 18, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The film begins with a wrecking ball destroying an abandoned building. The impact knocks over a magic lamp inside of the building, causing it to land on a boombox. The genie inside decides to make residence inside the boombox from there on in. Meanwhile, a schoolboy named Max (Capra) is confronted and chased down by a group of bullies through the city of New Bronslin. Max is chased into the abandoned building, where he discovers the boom-box and accidentally unleashes the genie inside. The genie, who introduces himself as Kazaam (O’Neal), tells Max that he is now Max’s genie and proves it to him by demonstrating his powers, which results in Kazaam disappearing off the face of the earth. Max returns home to find that his mother is marrying a fireman. It is revealed that his mother lied to him about his real father’s whereabouts, and that he is actually located in the city. Max set out to search for his father in the hopes of rekindling some sort of bond between them. He suddenly encounters Kazaam during his travels, who pesters Max into making a wish. Max eventually finds his father, only to learn that he is a musical talent agent who specializes in pirated music.

Max goes to his personal secret hideout and tells Kazaam about his father. They decide to have a bike race through Max’s hideout, during which Kazaam shows off his powers. Kazaam finally convinces Max to make his first wish, which consists of junk food raining from the sky. While eating all of this, Max suddenly realizes that he owns Kazaam until he makes his last two wishes. Max and Kazaam go out to see Max’s father again. After getting past an intimidating bodyguard, Max is introduced by his father to the other employees of the agency and invited to a nightclub. The owner of the nightclub, Melik (Manesh) shows interest in Kazaam upon the realization that he is a genie, and hopes to control Kazaam through Max’s father. The next day, Kazaam stays in Max’s home and passes himself off as Max’s tutor. Max confesses to Kazaam that he and his father aren’t really connecting, though Kazaam attempts to shirk the issue with some rapping. Later that day, Max witnesses his father being assaulted by Mr. Melik and his minions and goes to Kazaam for help. Kazaam just received a record deal as a professional rapper and is unable to help Max out. Max is kidnapped by Mr. Melik and takes possession of Kazaam’s boom-box.

After pushing max down an elevator shaft, Melik summons Kazaam in the hopes that he will do his bidding. While Kazaam is initially powerless against his master, he soon breaks free from his oppression and defeats Mr. Melik and his minions. Kazaam transforms Mr. Melik into a basketball and then slam-dunks him into a garbage disposal. Unfortunately, Kazaam discovers that Max is dead and becomes despondent. Feeling sad, he transforms into a higher level and becomes “djinn”, and is able to bring Max back, re-unite him with his family, and gives Max’s father a second chance. In addition, Kazaam also becomes human and the film ends with wondering what is this so called “Job” which his girlfriend insists he must get.

REVIEW:

I love I Dream of Jeannie and for some reason enjoy Shaq Vs. So, when you put those two things together, I thought finally taking the time to watch Kazaam would be worthwhile. I was wrong!

Now, I don’t want to make the impression that this is 100% horrible, but it is quite bad. No, it won’t be the worst film I watch this year, but it will probably be up there.

A film about a genie should flow pretty well, but for some reason this thing is so herky jerky that it is an epic fail.

First of all, if you’re going to use a genie, shouldn’t there be more special effects? The one or two times we get something out of Kazaam, with the exception of the sparks coming from his boombox while he is rapping, just aren’t enough to make it worthwhile, even if this just a comedy.

Second, the kid is just flat-out annoying. I’m sorry, but you would think they could have someone we could actually want to cheer on, rather than wish bad things upon, but that isn’t the case, as Max is just a whiny brat.

Third, the casting is just horrid.

Shaq may have the look of a genie with his size and everything, but he can’t act his way out of a paper bag. Well, let me take that back, when he’s himself, he’s quite entertaining, and from what I remember of Steel, he was actually somewhat decent, so maybe it had more to do with this script. His best lines are the ones where he’s rhyming. Something that Max made him stop doing. Yet another reason to not like the kid.

The villain is just some middle Eastern douchebag. There isn’t anything special about him, other than he somehow knows the secret.

Speaking of the secret, it never is said how Kazaam ended up in a boombox, rather than a lamp of some sort, or why his  ears rang when Max called him.

Max’s mother is an ancillary character. Not really sure why they bothered to bring her in, except for to show he has a maternal unit. There really was no other reason to have her, let alone bring in all that crap with her wannabe fiancée. I guess it was needed to provide some conflict for Max, but I could have done without it.

So, critics and just about everyone that has seen this have done everything but crucify Shaq. As bad as this picture is, please remember that there are plenty of worse pictures out there. I can’t recommend this to anyone, unless you’re a Shaq fan or want to see a film about a genie who isn’t evil. Otherwise, there is no reason to waste 90 minutes of your time. Should you avoid this picture? Maybe not altogether, but don’t go out of your way to watch it.

2  out of 5 stars