Archive for January, 2011

Atlantic City

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on January 31, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In 1915, Atlantic City is a sleepy seaside resort, but Brad Taylor, son of a small hotel and vaudeville house proprietor, has big plans: he thinks it can be “the playground of the world.” Brad’s wheeling and dealing proves remarkably successful in attracting big enterprises and big shows, but brings him little success in personal relationships. Full of nostalgic songs and acts, some with the original artists.

REVIEW:

 Please forgive the briefness of this review, I’m a bit under the weather. I’m actually surprised I managed to stay coherent throughout this picture.

With all the sudden fascination with all things Jersey, I figured why not cave in and check something out along those lines. This is how I came across Atlantic City. Not to mention it has Louis Armstrong in it!

The story here has to do with, more or less, the creation of Atlantic City. I don’t know how true to the actual story this film is, if any, but it was quite enjoyable.

The music is gret, but then, wasn’t all music from the swingin’ 40s?

The romance and drama were a bit much for me. I guess my sickness isn’t letting me look past it and focus on the story as I normally do.

The cast, as with every other classic piece of cinema I’ve seen, prove that folks knew how to act back then and didn’t need special effects to make a great film.

Of course, calling this film great would be a stretch. Sure, it is good, but there seems to be some kind of disjointedness shortly after the halfway point.

It isn’t like it is two completely different films, but there just seems to be something not quite coherent. Sort of like a romantic comedy that suddenly becomes an action drama, for lack of a better example.

When the dust clears, I liked this picture well enough, but with the exception of the musical numbers, I probably wouldn’t watch it again. Does that mean you should feel the same way? No, but chances are you didn’t even know this film existed, and probably won’t give it a second thought unless you’re a fan of classic cinema. Do I recommend this? Yes, but don’t go out of your way to find it. For me it was just an average flick, at best.

3 out of 5 stars

Vegas Vacation

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

At work, Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) has invented a long life food preservative, earning him a large bonus check. Clark announces to his family that he is taking them on vacation. Enthusiasm wanes, however, when Clark says they are headed to Las Vegas, Nevada.

His wife, Ellen (Beverly D’Angelo), and teenage daughter, Audrey (Marisol Nichols) have their doubts, as Las Vegas is not known for its family-friendly atmosphere, while teenage son Rusty (Ethan Embry) appears to be more eager, even asking if prostitution is legal there.

Upon arriving in Vegas, the family embarks upon a series of mishaps and adventures. Clark crosses paths with Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid), the husband of Ellen’s cousin Catherine (Miriam Flynn). Eddie and his family now live in the desert just north of Las Vegas, on what used to be an H-bomb test site.

While on a group tour of the gigantic Hoover Dam, Clark foolishly leaves the group after accidentally creating a leak in the dam’s inside walkways, and is forced to climb the scaffolding to the very top of the dam to get out, because his cries for help cannot be heard over the roaring water of the spillway.

During the vacation in Las Vegas, Clark becomes addicted to gambling (mostly Blackjack, which he usually loses), Rusty gets a fake ID and becomes a winning high roller (taking on the pseudonym ‘Nick Pappagiorgio’), Audrey starts hanging out with Eddie’s wild stripper daughter Vickie (Shae D’Lyn) (and hanging out with impersonators of The Beatles as well), and Ellen becomes addicted to Wayne Newton (playing himself), who may have feelings for Ellen, and it’s making Clark jealous.

After Clark gambles away the family’s $22,600 bank account, Eddie—who has money buried in his front yard—tries to come to the Griswold family’s rescue in return for everything the Griswolds have done for him and his family over the years.

Ultimately, the family begins to fall apart, thanks to Clark’s obsessive gambling, Ellen’s infatuation with Wayne Newton, Rusty’s new winning lifestyle, and Audrey’s desire to engage in exotic dancing with Cousin Vicki rather than spend time with her family.

The Griswolds must learn how to come together as a family, or “Sin City” just might destroy their very fabric.

Near the climax of the film, the Griswolds gamble their last two dollars on a game of Keno. They take a seat next to an older man (Sid Caesar in a cameo) who compliments Clark on his lovely family, and hints that he’s been lonely all of his life. Out of guilt, Clark tells the man to consider himself part of the Griswold family for the night. The man happily accepts Clark’s kind words, and both parties begin the game. At first, the Griswolds are hopeful, but as they realize they’ve already lost the game, they sadly sit for moments in silence. Suddenly, the man next to them ecstatically declares that he’s won the game. As he continues to express joy, he suddenly begins to slip in and out of consciousness while Ellen sends Rusty for help. He awakens one last time and whispers a message to Clark, before dropping his winning ticket and falling one final time. Clark, puzzled, tells Ellen that the man said “take the ticket”. When the casino security guards and paramedics arrive, they declare the man officially dead. They tell the Griswolds his name was Mr. Ellis, and commented on how sad his loneliness was to them. As Mr. Ellis is carried away, a janitor approaches with a vacuum cleaner; walking straight for the winning ticket on the floor. Though it appears Clark is going to allow it to be lost, he at last moment pulls the ticket out of the path of the vacuum.

Clark and Ellen remarry at the end. Afterwards, Clark hands Eddie a large pile of cash (Eddie can be overheard saying $5000 after counting it) and explains by telling him that “we were very fortunate last night”. Rusty tells Clark of the four cars he had won, a Dodge Viper, a Ford Mustang, a Hummer H1, and a Ford Aspire. Clark takes all the keys away from Rusty, but instead of confiscating them, he gives the keys to each family member. The movie rolls credits as the Griswolds are shown on Interstate 15, driving back home to Chicago.

REVIEW:

 The Griswolds return once again, this time taking a vacation to Las Vegas. Yeah, that’s the perfect family place, lemme tell ya!

Vegas Vacation is supposedly the last in the Vacation franchise. Notice that there is no “National Lampoon” in front of the title. I’m not sure why this is, but I honestly can’t say I blame them.

If you will recall when I reviewed National Lampoon’s Vacation, I mention that it was a good old-fashioned R-Rated comedy. Subsequently, National Lampoon’s European Vacation and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation both were toned down to Pg-13. While the “lesser” rating didn’t make either of those less funny, you could tell they were restrained a bit.

Well, Vegas Vacation seems like it was put in a straight jacket. I will never understand the desire for studios to take a film that works with one rating and drop it into a more “family friendly” one in an attempt to make more money. I”m of the opinion that if a film is going to make money, it will happen with or without parents paying for their annoying rugrat to sit in a theater and torture everyone around them because they don’t really want to be there. I’m just saying.

This film is quite funny, despite all that, but there is something that feels a bit rushed about it. Sort of like this was some studio execs sad attempt to make a name for himself and keep his job by fast tracking it into production, sacrificing thing like good story, script, etc.

The plot is the Griswold go to Vegas. While there, Clark gambles away all their money, Rusty becomes part of the mafia (for lack of a better term), Audrey becomes an exotic dancer (blame that on her cousin…get to that in a bit), and Ellen nearly hooks up with Wayne Newton. Oh, and then cousin Eddie and family, who just happen to live just outside of Vegas, show up.

First of all, let me say that I think these movies, with the exception of …Christmas Vacation, would be so much better without cousin Eddie, yet for some reason they keep forcing him down our throats. Look how great …European Vacation was, and he wasn’t in there at all. I know everyone has that one relative who just seems to be a nuisance, but this is a bit much.

Keeping in the theme of the family, and I belive I’ve touched on this before, the constant changing of the kids is…odd. I understand things happen and casts change, but at least keep somewhat of a timeline. I mean their ages have been up and down. If this was animated, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but it is obvious that both Clark and Ellen have aged, so why have their kids seemed to be drinking from the fountain of youth (though they are older than they were in the last one).

Chevy Chase is hilarious as ever and his chemistry with Beverly D’Angelo just seems to get better with each picture.

Although I didn’t care for the changing ages of the children, both actors, Marisol Nichols and Ethen Embry, are both pretty good in their roles.

Randy Quaid is as annoying as he always has ben as cousin Eddie.

Vegas Vacation isn’t as good as its predecessors, but it is still worth watching. Did it need to be made? I guess if Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo needed the money that bad, but otherwise, I’d have to say no. Should you watch it? I won’t say that you should, but there are oodles of much worse films out there that would do nothing than waste your time (looks at the review prior to this one, for example). Why not check it out and have a good laugh?

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Spoofs & Satire with tags , , , , on January 30, 2011 by Mystery Man

 

PLOT:

The Old West meets soft-core sexploitation in this action-packed adventure starring buxom beauty Nicole Sheridan as Annie, a cocktail waitress whose life takes a surprising turn when she learns she’s inherited the Devil’s Ring casino. Targeted by a band of outlaws looking to get their hands on her “property,” Annie receives some unexpected help from beyond the grave when the ghost of Calamity Kate (Belinda Gavin) emerges to wreck shop.

REVIEW:

 I won’t even waste my time giving this thing a full review, because I already wasted 78 minutes that I’ll never get back on this mess.

I was in the mood this morning for something bad, admittedly, but I wasn’t expecting this wannabe porn. Yes, I said wannabe porn, because that is what you get here.

A title like The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful leads one to believe that they are going to see a parody of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, right? Wrong!!!

The only similarity between the two films is the title, though I guess you can say they are set in the west.

Going back to the porn point. This film, I belive was meant to be one of those late-night HBO, Cinemax type of things. It is like the director was trying to leave the porn industry for “bigger and better things”, but couldn’t get away from what he knows best.

Seriously, the numerous sex scenes go on for quite sometime. To top that off, the only thing that distinguishes them from actual porn scenes is not being able to see pubic regions, which are usually quickly covered up by their hands.

I don’t need to tell you that the acting is horrible. I’m pretty sure you seen, or at least heard about how bad these type of films are.

The plot seems like it was some elementary student’s creative writing project that some third-rate Hollywood writer got their hands on and added some sex scenes…and that’s being generous.

It isn’t very often that I come across a movie so bad that I want to turn it off, but this falls into that category, without a question. This thing isn’t as bad as Ghost in a Teeny Bikini, but it is painfully close. If you know what’s good for you, stay away from this. I already made the sacrifice for you. When the highlight of a non porn flick is the sex scenes, then you have some issues. Just forget this thing even exists!

1 1/2 out of 5 stars

Inception

Posted in Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and along with his partner Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) perform illegal corporate espionage by entering the subconscious minds of their targets, using two-level “dream within a dream” strategies to “extract” valuable information. Each of the “extractors” carries a “totem”, a personalized small object whose behavior is unpredictable to anyone except to the totem’s owner, to determine if they are within another person’s dream. Cobb’s totem is a spinning top which spins perpetually in the dream state. Cobb struggles with memories of his dead wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) that manifest within the dream and try to sabotage his efforts.

Cobb is approached by the wealthy Mr. Saito (Ken Watanabe) asking them to perform the act of “inception”, planting an idea within the person’s subconscious mind. Saito wishes to break up the vast energy empire of his competitor, the ailing Maurice Fischer (Pete Postlethwaite), by suggesting this idea to his son Robert Fischer (Cillian Murphy) who will inherit the empire when his father dies. Should Cobb succeed, Saito promises to use his influence to clear Cobb of the murder charges for his wife’s death, allowing Cobb to re-enter the United States and reunite with his children. Cobb assembles his team: Eames (Tom Hardy), an identity forger; Yusuf (Dileep Rao), a chemist who concocts the powerful sedative needed to stabilize the layers of the shared dream; and Ariadne (Ellen Page), a young student architect tasked with designing the labyrinth of the dream landscapes. While planning the inception, Ariadne learns of the guilt Cobb struggles with from Mal’s suicide and his separation from his children when he fled the country as a fugitive.

The job is set into motion when Maurice Fischer dies and his son accompanies his father’s body from Sydney to Los Angeles. During the flight, Cobb sedates Fischer, and the team bring him into a three-level shared dream. At each stage, the member of the team who is “creating” the dream remains while the other team members fall asleep within the dream to travel further down into Fischer’s subconscious. The dreamers will then ride a synchronized system of “kicks” (a car diving off a bridge, a falling elevator, and a collapsing building) back up the levels to wake up to reality. In the first level, Yusuf’s dream of a rainy city, the team successfully abducts Fischer, but the team is attacked by Fischer’s militarized subconscious projections, which have been trained to hunt and kill extractors. Saito is mortally wounded during the shoot-out, but due to the strength of Yusuf’s sedative, dying in the dream will send them into limbo, a deep subconscious level where they may lose their grip on reality and be trapped indefinitely.

Eames takes the appearance of Fischer’s godfather Peter Browning (Tom Berenger) to suggest that he reconsider his opinion of his father’s will. Yusuf remains on the first level driving a van through the streets, while the remaining characters enter Arthur’s dream, taking place in a corporate hotel. Cobb turns Fischer against Browning and persuades him to join the team as Arthur runs point, and they descend to the third dream level, a snowy mountain fortress dreamed by Eames, which Fischer is told represents Browning’s subconscious. Yusuf’s evasive driving on the first level manifests as distorted gravity effects on the second and an avalanche on the third.

Saito succumbs to his wounds, and Cobb’s projection of Mal sabotages the plan by shooting Fischer dead.[11] Cobb and Ariadne elect to enter limbo to find Fischer and Saito. There, Cobb confronts his projection of Mal, who tries to convince him to stay with her and his kids in limbo. Cobb refuses and confesses that he was responsible for Mal’s suicide: to help her escape from limbo during a shared dream experience, he inspired in her the idea that her world wasn’t real. Once she had returned to reality, she became convinced that she was still dreaming and needed to die in order to wake up. Through his confession, Cobb attains catharsis and chooses to remain in limbo to search for Saito; Eames defibrillates Fischer to bring him back up to the third-level mountain fortress, where he enters a safe room and discovers and accepts the idea to split up his father’s business empire.

Leaving Cobb behind, the team members escape by riding the kicks back up the levels of the dream. Cobb eventually finds an elderly Saito who has been waiting in limbo for decades in dream time (just a few hours in real time), and the two help each other to remember their arrangement. The team awakens on the flight; Saito arranges for Cobb to get through U.S. customs, and he goes home to reunite with his children. Cobb uses his spinning top to test reality but is distracted by his children before he sees the result.

REVIEW:

 I’ve actually received quite a few inquiries as to why/when am I going to review Inception. Well, here it is.

Let me say this first, I am no fan of Christopher Nolan. While everyone else seems to worship the ground this guy walks on, I think he’s overrated and his pictures are just an excuse for him to show the world how messed up he is psychologically. Having said that, I did rather enjoy this picture, much more than The Dark Knight.

Don’t even bother asking me what the film is about because I couldn’t tell you without causing mass confusion. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. As someone said about this picture, it is one of those films that makes you think from beginning to end…especially the end.

It is no secret that I prefer films that require little to no thought. For me, they are just more enjoyable. I watch movies as an escape. That’s what they were initially made for, anyway. However, a film like this is a welcome departure from the norm for me every now and then.

Nolan prefers his films to be rooted in reality, so the only way he coul feasibly get away with rolling a city on itself (you see part of this happening in the trailer), is to have this happen in someone’s dreams, where anything can happen. I don’t know about you, but I don’t necessarily go around turning cities upside down like that in my dreams, but whatever.

So, Leonardo DiCaprio is apparently working for some mysterious benefactors and has gained this skill of manipulating people’s thoughts through dreams. This leads the viewer to wonder what part of the film is “real” and what is dream, much in the same way the first couple of films in The Matrix trilogy had you wondering.

I really liked this notion of more or less implanting thoughts through dreams, but one has to wonder…has it already been done? Maybe I’ve gone into your dreams and told you to read this post? Maybe you told me to write this? Who knows?

As with any film of this nature nowadays, they have to insert the drama. This comes in the form of Marion Cotillard’s character, Mal, who apparently committed suicide and inadvertently framed Leonardo DiCaprio for it. Now, she “haunts” his subconscious and causes trouble for him and his team.

This is not a film filled with nothing but subconscious mumbo jumbo. There actually is a lot more action here than I expected. This actually helps move the film along at a brisk pace, because without it, this picture could very well have fallen into the category of “will this never end” boredom!

Each of the cast is great. I think this is one of the few DiCaprio films that I actually liked him in (Titanic was all about Kate Winslet).

Joseph Gordon-Levitt really surprised me with this very serious, buttoned up role as Arthur. Something we’re not used to seeing from him. Of course, the same thing could have been said about him in G.I. Joe:Rise of Cobra, right?

If there was a weak link, it had to be Ellen Page. Once again, she’s playing the same role we’ve seen her do a million times before, that of the rebellious youth who wants to do her own thing. She seriously needs to try something different.

Nolan also brought in his usuals, Cillian Murphy and Michael Caine. I half expected to see Christian Bale turn up somewhere, but then again, it looks like Murphy was trying to be Bale.

What did I think of Inception? Well, I’m not gushing over it the way everyone else seems to be, but I did rather enjoy it. I’m just not into these types of films, I guess. I mean, had there been more action and not so much exposition and unnecessary drama, not to mention a shorter runtime, I might have loved it. Still, I would highly recommend that you see this film. I will say it was one of the best films of 2010.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Ziegfeld Follies

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Winner of the award for Best Musical Comedy at the Cannes Film Festival, this star-studded production opens in heaven, with the late Broadway producer Florenz Ziegfeld looking down to earth and imagining a final lavish revue. A series of musical and comedy sketches follow, including dance numbers with Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, an Esther Williams water ballet, a Red Skelton comedy routine and more. Lucille Ball and Judy Garland also appear.

REVIEW:

 Ziegfeld Follies is not a film for everyone, I’ll get that out right off th bat. This is one of those package features films that was cheap to make during wartime…although this all-star, who’s who cast probably cost them a pretty penny.

I was really expecting to like this film, but it just didn’t happen. I mean, I usually like package films. At least I do in animated faire such as Melody Time, Make Mine Music, Saludos Amigos, etc. I guess the formula doesn’t work sans Disney.

There actually is a plot here. Florenz Ziegfeld is looking down and thinking about what one final all-star revue of his works would be like. That sequence lasts for a bout 5 minutes, then we segue into a book/program without ever seeing Ziegfeld again. Kind of odd for a film called Ziegfeld Follies, if you ask me.

Don’t get me wrong, these skits and musical numbers are mostly great on their own (there are couple of subpar entries), but they all seemed just thrown together here. I’m sure that in the stage production of this film, these works flow into each other seamlessly, but on film, at least the way the filmmaker made it, that isn’t the case.

When I looked at the cast of this and saw Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire, I was hoping beyond all hope that they’d get a segment together. Segment after segment passed and it was starting to seem as if that wasn’t going to happen, and then the highlight of the film as the two greatest dancers ver to grace the silver screen paired up. If I’m not mistaken, this is the only time they ever did so. I will say this, though…this segment is the reason to watch this flick, if for nothing else.

I’m sure if you’re reading this, you’re saying to yourself that I hated this film. That isn’t the case. I did like it, not love it, but like it. I think it coud have been directed better and they could have had better segment segues, similar to the way they are done in De-Lovely. Should you watch this? I wouldn’t suggest it, unless you’re a die hard song and dance fan, or really into Vaudeville/variety type stuff, because that is what this film is. Still, it is a good watch, and you could do much worse.

3 out of 5 stars

Captain Kidd and the Slave Girl

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on January 29, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Anthony Dexter as “Captain Kidd” is saved from hanging by an Earl who wants to get his hand on Kidd’s treasure. The Earl thinks the best method is to put a woman confederate (Eva Gabor) aboard Kidd’s ship as a slave girl to wrest or wrestle the information from him. They fight a lot as a prelude to falling in love, and then work together against the evil Earl’s none-too-well laid plan. Alan Hale, Jr. (Simpson) is along as Kidd’s trusted friend, while Sonia Sorrell (as Ann Bonney) displays a lot of what the best-undressed female pirate wasn’t wearing on pirate ships of the time.

REVIEW:

What better way to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon than watching a good, old-fashioned, black & white pirate flick, eh? That’s exactly what I just did with Captain Kidd and the Slave Girl.

Before you go jumping to conclusions, there is nothing raunchy about this picture. The term “slave girl” is just in the title. As a matter of fact, she doesn’t even stay a slave very long.

So, let’s get the bad out of the way first. Back in this era, many films were shot on sound stages, and it was obvious. I actually prefer that look to location shoots, sometimes. I can’t look over, though, the many times during this film where you can see people walking behind the backgrounds. Since this is in black and white, it really shows.

The film moves a bit on the slow side for the first half of the picture, but it picks up not long after they get to sea. Personally, I think they could have taken some of that early exposition out in favor of some more swashbuckling action, but that’s just me.

Speaking of the action, when it finally kicks in, it is what you would expect from a film of this era and caliber. Sure, there aren’t any special effects or anything, but that’s what makes it so great. Actors actually acting!*GASP* What a concept!

The acting here is ok, but it’s not the best I’ve seen in classic cinema. I expected more. Although, I will say that I got what I expected from Eva Gabor and more that I bargained for with Alan Hale, Jr. I guess he can do more than just be the Skipper on Gilligan’s Island.

When all the smoke clears, Captain Kidd and the Slave Girl isn’t one of those films you’ll remember after watching it, but it is good fun. Isn’t that what movies are supposed to be about? Providing us with an escape from reality? I didn’t love this picture, but I did enjoy it, and would gladly watch it again without hesitation. I hope that you feel the same if you give it a chance.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Red

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 26, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Frank Moses (Willis), a former black-ops CIA agent, is now living a quiet life in retirement. However, he begins to feel lonely and often chats on the phone with Sarah (Parker), a customer service agent working for Frank’s pension office in Kansas City.

His life is disrupted when a hit squad raids his house in the middle of the night. Frank kills the assassins and, knowing they would have tapped his phone, goes to Kansas City to protect Sarah. She becomes Frank’s reluctant companion while he tries to find out who is trying to kill him, and track down his old black ops team for help. Meanwhile, CIA agent William Cooper (Urban) is assigned to hunt and kill Frank.

Frank first goes to New Orleans to find his mentor Joe Matheson (Freeman), currently living in a retirement community and terminally ill, who tells him that the hit squad Frank killed were also responsible for the murder of a news reporter. While avoiding Cooper, Frank and Sarah find clues left behind by the deceased reporter, which leads them to a hit list. They then track down Marvin Boggs (Malkovich), a paranoid conspiracy theorist, to provide more information. Marvin tells them that the names on the list were all connected to a secret mission in Guatemala that Frank participated in during 1981, and that one name, Gabriel Singer (Remar), is still alive. The trio track down Singer, who tells them that the mission involved extracting a person from a village and that everybody on the list has been killed to silence them. Singer is then assassinated by a helicopter machine gunner, and the team makes their escape as Cooper closes in. With the help of Russian secret agent Ivan Simanov (Cox), Frank and Sarah infiltrate the CIA headquarters to steal the file but Frank is injured in the process. Joe, having escaped an attempt on his life, helps extract the team and joins them. The team hides out in Victoria’s (Mirren) house for first aid. Victoria, who misses her old life as a wetwork agent, joins the team as well.

After reviewing the file, all the team can figure out is that the only man involved not on the list, Alexander Dunning (Dreyfuss), has some way of protecting himself. The team arrives at Dunning’s house, where he reveals under interrogation that the mission was to extract Vice-President Robert Stanton (McMahon), who at the time was a young lieutenant that experienced a breakdown and massacred the village. It becomes apparent that Stanton is trying to erase all the loose ends as he plans to run for president. At that moment, Cooper and the FBI surround Dunning’s mansion. Cooper tries to negotiate Frank’s surrender, but Frank tells Cooper about the vice-president’s treachery, which shakes his faith. Joe sacrifices himself by taking Frank’s place and pretending to give up. An unknown sniper kills Joe as he leaves the mansion, despite Cooper ordering his own men to hold fire. The confusion buys the team enough time to escape, but Sarah is captured. Frank calls Cooper and threatens to kill his family if Sarah is harmed, and that he intends to kill Stanton.

The team, along with Ivan (revealed to be Victoria’s former lover), infiltrate Stanton’s fundraising gala in Chicago and successfully kidnap him despite Cooper’s best efforts to stop them. Frank calls Cooper and says he is willing to trade Stanton for Sarah. At the meeting point, Dunning arrives and reveals that he is the mastermind behind the assassinations and that Stanton was merely a pawn and scapegoat. Cooper’s handler, Cynthia Wilkes, is also in on the plot. Disgusted with Dunning and Wilkes’ greed and corruption and being used by her and Dunning, Cooper gives Frank the key to his handcuffs and shoots Wilkes while Marvin and Victoria kill Dunning’s bodyguards, and Frank crushes Dunning’s windpipe. Marvin then shoots him while he’s on the ground. Cooper agrees to let Frank and his team go. As they leave the scene, Frank and Sarah are eager to start a new life together.

The final scene shows Frank and Marvin in Moldova, fleeing from Moldovan Army troops with a stolen nuclear device, in a wooden wheelbarrow with Marvin wearing a dress being pushed by Frank, as part of returning a favor to Ivan for his help.

REVIEW:

 I guess 2010 must have the year of the ensemble action flicks.  Along with this film, Red, there was The Losers, The Expendables, and of course The A-Team, bt that falls into a different category, since it was based on a TV show first and foremost.

So, why is this called Red, you may be asking yourself? Well, it stands for Retired, Extremely Dangerous. This should tell you why the cast is, a bit, how you say…aged?

The plot involved retired Black Ops agent Frank Moses basically having trouble adjusting to the “quiet” life, so he takes to chatting up his pension case worker. Out of the blue, he gets attacked by a wet team, and the film takes off from there, involving all sorts of treachery, shooting, and explosions.

Apparently, this was a comic, but I had never heard of it. Of course, I didn’t know Constantine or Men in Black were comics, either.

While I loved the action in this film, I felt there could have been more. Some reviews I’ve read have ripped this film apart for the comedy. I actually was a fan of the comedy, but it could have been balanced out a bit more, much in the ay they did in A-Team.

The Expendables brought together just about every big action star of the past few decades. Red was going for the older generation, but, with the exception of Willis, these aren’t action stars. As a matter of fact, if you put the resumes of this cast together it is quite impressive, as almost all of them have been nominated for Academy Awards numerous times, with Helen Mirren winning at least one (I don’t know about the others, sorry.)

Now, is this a bad thing, no, just wanted to get that out there.

Bruce Willis in an action picture. Do I really need to say that once again he’s a bad ass? No, I thought not.

Morgan Freeman, in the brief time he’s on screen, is the consummate pro. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the guy in a bad role. Having said that, I belive he could have been used a bit more.

Can you belive that Mary-Louise Parker is nearly 50?!? She looks  younger than some of the 20 something year old actresses out there today. Her character seemed to be the type that cold easily get on your nerves, but as the film progressed and she finally realized Frank wasn’t trying to kill her, she got better. Unfortunately, her character seemed to be lost in the shuffle as that happened and the “band” is put back together.

John Malkovich is insane. Picture every conspiracy nut you’ve ever seen. Then take that up about 10 notches and that’s what you get with Malkovich’s character.

Is it wrong that, even though I already love Helen Mirren, I fond her irresistible when she was shooting that machine gun? I hope not, because I did. As far as her acting goes, well, she didn’t really have much to work with here, and yet she still turns in a masterful performance.

Karl Urban is primed to be the next generation of action star, especially with his role here, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the upcoming remake of Judge Dredd. Not bad for a gy that was Ceaser on Xena: Warrior Princess not that long ago, right? Not convinced he’s worthy? Well, just watch his fight with Willis. The guy has the chops to go toe to toe with him. Maybe Stallone needs to consider him for the sequel to The Expendables.

I was really looking forward to Red as soon as it was released. Was it worth the wait? Well, there was a bit of a disappointment, but yes it was. Anytime you get an ensemble cast like this together and they look like they’re having fn doing what they get paid for and don’t seem like it is a chore for them to be there, it is always a good thing.

Red may not be the best film of all time, but one can have a good time watching it. Do I recommend it? As a matter of fact, I do. Unless you’re just one of those people who hates anything  and everything, I don’t see why you wouldn’t find at least something to enjoy in this film.

4 out of 5 stars

Despicable Me

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 26, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film begins with the news revealing that an Egyptian pyramid was stolen. When super-villain Gru (Steve Carell) hears of this, his pride is wounded and he plans to pull the biggest heist of the century by stealing the Moon.

Gru tries to get a loan from the Bank of Evil (which a sign notes tongue-in-cheek was “Formerly Lehman Brothers”) and meets a young super-villain, Vector (Jason Segel), who annoys him. Bank president Mr. Perkins (Will Arnett) refuses to grant Gru the loan until he obtains the shrink ray necessary for the plan. Mr. Perkins tells Gru that he is getting too old and that new super-villains are younger and better, like Vector, who is revealed to be the one who stole the Pyramid of Giza.

Gru and his minions steal the shrink ray from a secret lab in East Asia, but Vector steals it from him and shrinks his ship. Gru attempts to get the shrink ray back from Vector’s lair, but all his attempts to enter the lair prove futile. After seeing three orphaned girls, Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier), and Agnes (Elsie Fisher) enter the lair to sell cookies to Vector, Gru adopts the girls from Miss Hattie (Kristen Wiig), the head of the orphanage, to use them to steal back the shrink ray. Gru has his assistant Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) build robots disguised as cookies. He then has the girls sell the robots to Vector, and the robots help Gru steal the shrink ray.

On the way home the girls ask to go to an amusement park. Gru agrees, intending to leave the girls there. Instead, the attendant says he, as an adult, has to ride the roller coaster with them. Gru ends up having fun with the girls. Back at home, he presents his plan to Mr. Perkins via video. The girls keep interrupting him. Perkins again refuses to give him the loan, claiming that although he doesn’t have a problem with the plan, he just wants a younger villain to do it instead. Gru has a flashback of his childhood, depicting his wanting to go to the moon after seeing the first moon landing. When he tried to impress his mother (Julie Andrews) with models of the rocket (and an actual working one), she just ignored him. Mr. Perkins calls Vector (revealed to be his son, whose real name is Victor) to the Bank of Evil to inform him that Gru has the shrink ray. Vector reassures his father that he will get the Moon. Gru almost abandons his plan due to lack of funds, but the girls and the minions take up a collection to keep it going.

However, Gru has to make a choice, because the moon will be in the optimal position for the heist on the same day as the girls’ ballet recital. Dr. Nefario, seeing the girls as a distraction, contacts Miss Hattie, who arrives to take the girls back. Gru, the Minions, and the girls are heartbroken. Gru goes on with his plan and flies to the moon.

Gru successfully shrinks and pockets the Moon. Gru remembers the ballet recital and rushes to it. However, it has ended by the time he arrives. There, he finds a ransom note from Vector demanding the moon in exchange for the girls. After Gru hands over the moon, Vector reneges on the deal, keeping the girls and the moon. This enrages Gru, who storms Vector’s lair, this time successfully breaching the defenses. Vector flies off in an escape pod with the girls. Gru holds on to the exterior of the ship. He nearly falls to his death, but is rescued by Dr. Nefario piloting the same ship that Vector shrunk before. Nefario reveals that the bigger the object, the quicker the effects of the shrink ray wear off. Very soon, the moon begins to grow and roll around inside Vector’s ship, hurting him and freeing the girls. The girls see Gru outside of the ship, and Gru tells them to jump over to him. Edith and Agnes successfully make it onto the ship, but before Margo can jump, Vector grabs her. The moon rolls again and knocks Vector over, and Margo grabs onto Gru’s grappling hook. Gru rescues her with the help of his minions, while the rapidly-expanding Moon wrecks Vector’s controls, causing his ship to carry it back into orbit.

Gru and the girls settle down to live a happy life as a family and Vector is stranded on the Moon. The girls give a special ballet recital for Gru, his minions, and his mother, who finally tells him she is proud of him and acknowledges him to be the better parent. The music changes from Swan Lake to You Should Be Dancing, and everyone rushes on stage to dance as the film ends.

REVIEW:

It seemed like a year before this film was released there was always a new promo everywhere you looked. With that kind of push behind it, one would expect that Despicable Me would be the best thing since sliced bread, right? Well, I don’t know about all that, but it is pretty close.

Let me get the bad out of the way, first. Those 3 little girls! Sure, they add a “cuteness” factor and give Gru something to care for, but seriously, are they really necessary? I mean they ended up being nothing more than a distraction.

The next thing I had an issue with was the lack of villain, or rather lack of visible villains. This is minor issue, but it is an issue for me, nonetheless. There is this whole giant bank for villains to go to, yet we only see Gru and Vector. Where are the other villains?

My last qualm has to do with how these two seem to blend into normal neighborhoods, but it is quite obvious they don’t fit in. For goodness sakes, Gru freezes the entire line at the coffee shop just to get his coffee and muffin, and yet nothing is done about this. Of course, this can be filed under suspension of disbelief.

Now onto the good. This is some beautiful animation. I don’t know how the 3D worked for it, though. I wold imagine that the roller coaster scene and the minions playing as the credits roll are the only things that really took advantage of the technology, bt I could be wrong.

In contrast to the little girls, I loved the minions. Every villain has to have henchmen, and Gr has these mutated Twinkies in overalls. These little guys mumble in their own way, and yet are the most memorable characters in the film…even moreso than Gru.

Steve Carrell gives a Gru this great undetermined European accent that really works, and I would assume Julie Andrews was told to do the same for her character.

Jason Segel as Vector reminds me of Mandark from Dexter’s Laboratory, both in his look and mannerisms. I was half expecting him to do the nasally laugh.

Mr. Perkins, the bank manager seems to have been based on the boss from Dilbert, only they pumped him up and made him freakishly tall.

Russell Brand as the Dr. Nefario is pretty good, bt subdued for Brand. As the film was going on, I kept thinking to myself, I wonder what it would have been like if he had been the voice of Vector.

A couple weeks ago, I reviewed How to Train Your Dragon, and marveled at the brilliance in animation and the great story. Despicable Me isn’t as good as that particular film, but it is pretty close. This is one of those feel good family films that both kids and adults can enjoy.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

 

The Whole Nine Yards

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 26, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Nicholas ‘Oz’ Oseransky (Matthew Perry) is a depressed, slightly neurotic American dentist working and living in Montreal, Quebec. His wife Sophie (Rosanna Arquette) and mother-in-law (Carmen Ferland) hate him, and his deceased father-in-law has saddled him with a lot of debt. At work, Oz has made friends with his receptionist, Jill (Amanda Peet), who urges him to get away from his wife who she believes is “not a good person”. Oz admits that due to his life insurance, he’s worth more dead than alive to her, but that he currently cannot afford to divorce her.

Jimmy “The Tulip” Tudeski (Bruce Willis), a hitman, moves in next door under the assumed name of “Jimmy Jones”. Having testified against the Gogolak gang, a very dangerous crime family in Chicago, Jimmy is hiding out in Canada. He immediately befriends Oz, who realizes who he is and becomes very nervous around him, but subsequently bonds with him after Jimmy invites him to show him around Montreal, Oz talking about how he ended up in his current situation.

Sophie presses Oz to travel to Chicago, where he is to meet up with Yanni Gogolak (Kevin Pollak), let him know where Jimmy “The Tulip” is and collect a finder’s fee. Oz travels to Chicago against his better judgment, but does not go to see Yanni. Oz goes to his hotel room to find another notorious hitman, Franklin Figueroa, a.k.a. “Frankie Figgs” (Michael Clarke Duncan), in his room. Frankie beats up Oz and takes him to meet Yanni. It is at this meeting he first encounters Jimmy’s wife Cynthia (Natasha Henstridge), for whom Oz immediately harbors an attraction.

At the meeting, Yanni explains that he intends to find out where Jimmy is, which Oz is coerced into admitting that he knows. Then Yanni releases Oz, with the understanding that Frankie will go with him to assassinate Jimmy. Oz returns to his room, and immediately calls Jimmy and blurts out the whole mess, apologizing to Jimmy about revealing his whereabouts and imploring him to save himself. Jimmy, sounding unruffled, tells Oz to calm down and says that not only does he already know what happened, but that he also reassures Oz that it’s all according to plan. Oz hangs up, and Cynthia arrives at the room. She reveals that some time ago, she, Jimmy and Yanni set up a joint account containing 10 million dollars. There is, however, a special stipulation – the money can only be withdrawn in person by all three principals – or two principals and the death certificate of the third, or one principal with two death certificates. Oz realizes this is Jimmy’s plan – to kill Yanni and Cynthia to get all the money. Oz and Cynthia have sex before Oz returns home with Frankie the next day.

Back home, Oz meets with Jimmy, and it is revealed that he and Frankie are friends who are working to betray Yanni, whom Frankie has told to come up to Canada himself, simultaneously intending to kill Cynthia. An increasingly paranoid Oz reveals what is happening to Jill, who becomes excited and insists that Oz introduce her.

To Oz’s shock, Jill reveals she is an aspiring “hit woman” who idolizes Jimmy. She was hired by Oz’s wife to kill him, but after going to work for him (to get a feel for his movements and work out the best time to kill him), she ended up liking him too much to go through with it. Jimmy takes a quick liking to Jill and incorporates her into his plan. Jimmy plans to set a trap for Yanni and kill him and Cynthia, which Oz objects to.

The night of the plan, Jimmy’s trap succeeds and he, a naked Jill and Frankie kill Yanni and his men. Oz flees the scene with Cynthia. A short time later, a second hit man, hired by Sophie to kill Oz, enters the house, and Jimmy shoots him dead, causing Sophie to flee the neighborhood in terror. A badge found in the dead “hit man”‘s pocket reveals him to be an undercover police officer.

When Jimmy discovers that Oz slept with Cynthia, he becomes enraged, but Oz tells Jimmy he loves Cynthia, and has an alternative plan that will mean she doesn’t have to die. Using the dead cop’s body, Oz alters his dental work to resemble Jimmy’s, and then Frankie places the body in a car with Yanni’s, before setting the car on fire.

A few days later, the burned bodies can only be identified by dental records, which match Yanni and Jimmy’s. While investigating Jimmy’s house, the police also find the dead cop’s car, and a tape recorder inside reveals Sophie’s plan to have Oz murdered. Both Sophie and her mother are arrested, the cops concluding that she killed the cop when he tried to back out of the plan.

The next day, Jill meets with Cynthia, who will collect the money with the death certificates for Yanni and Jimmy, to collect the money, which will be wired straight to Jimmy in exchange for her life. Meanwhile, Jimmy and Frankie take Oz out on a boat. Jimmy tells Oz that, ironically, he’s about to find out if Cynthia loves him back; if she doesn’t, she’ll just take the money and run, even knowing that Jimmy will kill Oz if she does. Meanwhile, Frankie takes Jimmy aside and says they have to kill Oz, who witnessed all their crimes.

At the bank, Jill tempts Cynthia with the idea of taking the money and running. Cynthia realizes that she really does love Oz, and declines. Jill, delighted, completes the transfer of the money, but arranges for $1 million to be set aside for Cynthia and Oz.

Out at sea, Jimmy has a change of heart and shoots Frankie rather than Oz. He reasons that, if he hadn’t killed Oz, Frankie would have, and then come after Jimmy later, thinking he’d gone soft.

When the boat docks, Jill lovingly runs into Jimmy’s arms. They give Oz an affectionate sendoff. Meeting Cynthia near the airport, Oz asks her to marry him. She is initially distrustful, thinking that Oz knows about the money. But he doesn’t know – he just loves her. She melts and accepts. When he mentions his debt, she smiles and says, “something tells me we’ll get by.”

The film ends with Oz and Cynthia dancing at their wedding, on a balcony overlooking Niagara Falls.

REVIEW:

 A while back, I watched the “comedy” Get Shorty, mistakenly thinking it was this film. Don’t ask me how I got the two confused, but I did. This afternoon, though, I finally got the chance to view The Whole Nine Yards, and it did not disappoint.

When your plot involves a dentist in an unhappy marriage, a wife who wants him dead for the insurance money, and a whole convoluted thing about a hit contract on the new neighbor, hilarity is sure to ensue.

Having said that, though, I can’t ignore the accent that Rosanna Arquette gave to her character. I’ve never met any French-Canadians, so I can’t judge, but that accent was just horrendously fake sounding to me.

Moving on, the fast paced tempo of this picture really kept it interesting. It isn’t very hard to see that if not for decent pacing, this film could have fallen into the boring category, not to mention got confusing.

I was actually surprised by how funny this film turned out to be. After watching Get Shorty, I assumed that this would have been another drama masquerading as a comedy, as many people seem to lump the two films together for some unknown reason. They couldn’t be further from the truth, though.

How many of us remember when Bruce Willis had hair? For me, I have to think back to his days on Moonlighting. Along that same line, his character here has the same one-liner delivery, albeit much more serene, that he did then, from what I recall. Of course, I could be dead wrong. It has been some time, after all.

Matthew Perry seems to only know how to play one kind of character. In each role I see him in, he’s this neurotic, stressed out, on the verge of a nervous breakdown kind of guy. It is basically like all of his characters are spinoffs of his character from Friends, Chandler, or at least distant relatives.

Michael Clarke Duncan is the imposing presence that one would expect him to be. Seriously, though, can you blame Oz for being freaked out when you walk into a hotel room and see this giant man sitting in there waiting for you?

Natasha Henstridge is just plain hot. That’s all I need to say about her.

Someone mentioned at one time that Amanda Peet in some films looks drop dead gorgeous and others she just looks average, which in turn affects her performance. Well, here she falls into that hot category (the nakedness and/or tight pants may have had something to do with that, though).

So, what do I ultimately think of The Whole Nine Yards? Well, it is a well crafted comedy with some thrills along the way. The story is well developed and the climax is worth the wait. Is it worth viewing? I would say so. So, why haven’t you gone to find it instead of sitting here reading this?

4 out of 5 stars

Hollywood Shuffle

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Spoofs & Satire with tags , , on January 25, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The movie focuses on Bobby (Townsend) and his quest to succeed as a Hollywood actor. He is stuck working at a fast-food stand with some hilarious and demented characters who consistently try to destroy his plans for the future.

When he finally gets a break, he is forced to question his own morality. Should he join the system and play stereotypical roles? Or should he refuse, risking his dream of becoming an actor?

As he travels, he frequently has terrifying visions of the consequences of playing stereotypes. In one vision, Bobby is a detective pursuing a murderer with a Jheri curl. In another, he is Uncle Tom with an angry mob after him. Yet another vision shows Bobby in an audition for an Eddie Murphy type, while a final vision shows Bobby playing a King in a Shakespearean play and as the black action hero Rambro.

One of the film’s vignettes involves a parody of Siskel and Ebert’s television show, Sneakin’ in at the Movies. Featured are two African-Americans, Speed and my homie, Tyrone who bump into each other at a movie theater. They review movies using street dialect; while reviewing Amadeus and Salerius, Speed’s entire review consists of yelling “Bullshit” at the screen. When the two disagree about the movie Chicago Jones and the Temple of Doom, Tyrone threatens Speed with the words, “Im’o bust yo’ ass”. They disapprove of Dirty Larry; instead of giving it a thumbs-down, the two give it the finger. Finally, the duo give lavish praise and a high five to the film Attack of the Killer Street Pimps. The vignette ends when Speed and Tyrone are caught sneaking into the theater and ejected.

REVIEW:

 I seem to remember first hearing about this on an episode on Chapelle’s Show. Ever since then, I’ve been waiting to see what the big deal was with Hollywood Shuffle. This afternoon, I finally got that opportunity.

Someone I talked to about this film said that it was akin to watching a pilot episode of In Living Color. Now, I loved that show when I was in junior high, but I was skeptical about what they meant since this isn’t a Wayans brothers film(though Keenen and Damon do appear).

There is a plot to this picture, but, honestly, it is just there to set up the sketches, sort of like the cutaways in Family Guy, just not done as smoothly (or annoying, depending on your point of view).

Said sketches are hilarious, corny, campy, and have a message. My favorite was the detective parody.

I found Hollywood Shuffle very entertaining and I now see why it has influenced so many comedians. I’m sure many of you will enjoy this just as much as I did when you watch.

4 out of 5 stars

Airheads

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Chazz (Brendan Fraser), Rex (Steve Buscemi) and Pip (Adam Sandler) are a Los Angeles would-be rock band calling themselves The Lone Rangers. The guys are continuously turned down as they try to get their demo tape heard by producers. They finally decide to try to get the local rock station, KPPX-FM Rebel Radio 103.6, to play it on the air, after they saw how Rebel Radio helped another band (The Sons of Thunder) get a record deal. Their first break-in attempt is using Pip’s ATM card and its PIN. Then, Rex tries to “short circuit” the electronic lock with Pip’s Big Gulp. They finally get in when a station employee comes out (and goes back in) and they keep the door from shutting.

Once inside, disc jockey Ian the Shark (Joe Mantegna) puts them on the air without them knowing. The station’s sleazy manager Milo (Michael McKean) overhears them and intervenes. After Milo calls Rex “Hollywood Boulevard trash”, Chazz and Rex shove water pistols (that look like Uzis) loaded with hot pepper sauce in Milo’s face and demand airplay. After setting up a reel-to-reel for the demo, the tape starts and is destroyed when the reel runs out and catches fire in an ashtray. The guys try to run, but Doug Beech (Michael Richards), the station’s accountant, calls the police and the building is surrounded.

They soon realize that they are armed hostage takers, and begin negotiations with the police. During the crisis, it is learned that Milo had signed a deal to change radio formats, which includes having to downsize Ian and most of the other employees. Ian and the rest of the employees take the side of Chazz and turn against Milo. Eventually, the record executive who rejects Chazz in the beginning of the film comes to the radio station. The band signs a record contract and goes out on stage to play, only to realize that they are supposed to lip sync the song and fake playing the instruments. They refuse to lip sync while the music is playing and get a round of cheers from the audience, who rush the stage.

Afterwards, Ian becomes the band’s manager and we learn that the three were sent to prison, but served only a short time and had their album “Live in Prison” (which was recorded while the trio was imprisoned) go triple platinum.

REVIEW:

 Ah…the 90’s…a time when grunge rock was the norm. Don’t you miss those days? Well, if you get the chance to watch Airheads, you may be transported back there.

This comedy centers around 3 losers (who i wold imagine are stoners, though it isn’t mentioned) that have a garage band and are trying to get their music played so that they can get signed to a record deal. In an effort to get this done, they take realistic looking toy guns, water pistol to be exact, into a radio station and inadvertently cause a hostage situation at a radio station.

Looking at this from today’s point of view…these gys would probably be considered terrorists or something, when all they were trying to do is trying to break into the business. Is that so wrong? Sure, they went about it the wrong way, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, right? **Note: I’m not advocating anyone go hold up a radio station!!!!**

This is truly a goofy comedy. If you’re going into this thing expecting something more, than you are just wasting your time. The best way I can describe the tone of this film is to think Mallrats, but with less talking and more comedy.

I loved the way that this film doesn’t take itself too seriously. Often time, movies feel the need to make a point, usually comedies, and end up losing the funny. This film was a laugh riot from start to finish.

The grouping of Brendan Fraser, who looks like he just came straight over from Encino Man and got a new wardrobe, Adam Sandler, in one of his funniest roles, and Steve Buscemi together was a stroke of genius. These guys were great together!

Who thinks of Joe Mantegna when it comes to comedy? With the exception of voicing Fat Tony on The Simpsons, this guy is known as a serious actor, so it was a surprise to see him in this, and yet, he was really impressive and believable.

Michael Keaton serves no purpose in this picture. At one point Buscemi calls him a cockroach, and that is really what he is. He’s just there to annoy.

Ernie Hudson proves he can actually do something other than be a second-rate Ghostbuster here.

Chris Farley is in the film as well, but he’s not really a major character.

Also, listen out for Beavis & Butthead. They call in to the radio station near the midway point.

For those of you out there who just want to find a movie that will let you relax and laugh, rather than have to think about every little thing that happens, then Airheads is perfect for you. I highly recommend it. After all, in this day and time, couldn’t well use a laugh every now and then?

4 out of 5 stars

Jason’s Lyric

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on January 24, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Jason’s Lyric is the “good brother”/”bad brother” story, which was set to be filmed in the 5th ward of Houston, but due to gentrification the only part that was filmed there was the basketball scene. The remainder was filmed in the 3rd ward.

Jason (Allen Payne) is a responsible young man who has a job in a television repair shop and lives at home with his hard-working mom (Suzzanne Douglass). Joshua (Bokeem Woodbine) is the younger brother just released from prison and obviously bound for a violent end. Joshua deals drugs for short-term cash and joins a gang plotting a bank robbery.

When Lyric (Jada Pinkett Smith) walks into the shop to buy a television, Jason meets his perfect match. She has dreams of escape, and inspires Jason to do supposedly romantic things like borrow a city bus to take her on a date. Their relationship continually grows and blossoms into love. The height comes when Jason and Lyric take a romantic ride in a rowboat, then make love in the woods.

In a series of flashbacks, Forest Whitaker plays the boys’ father, Mad Dog. Throughout the film, Jason has nightmares about a tragedy in his childhood. Either Jason or Joshua killed Mad Dog while he was drunkenly attacking their mother. It turns out that Jason accidentally killed Mad Dog in the end. Jason managed to take the gun from Joshua and accidentally shot Mad Dog in the chest. After being comforted by Lyric, he learns to deal with his past.

As punishment for being late for the bank robbery, Joshua is beaten by the rest of his gang. When Joshua returns home and Jason realize how badly he’s been beaten, Jason confronts the leader of the gang.

Jason then meets Lyric at the bayou and tells her that he can’t leave with her and that his nightmares occur because he killed his father when he was a child and that’s why he feels obligated to his family.

Things get worse when Joshua hears his mother tell Jason to leave town with Lyric because he doesn’t owe her or Joshua anything. Joshua believes that Jason is leaving not only because of Lyric, but because Alonzo (the gang leader) may take revenge. Joshua plans to kill them all in order to keep his brother from leaving.

Jason hears about Joshua’s plan and heads to Alonzo/Lyric’s house, but he’s too late. He see’s what has happened and rushes upstairs looking for Lyric. He finds that Joshua has a gun pointed at her neck. He is able to convince Joshua not to kill her, but he accidentally pulls the trigger and shoots her on the right-side of her shoulder. Jason carries her out of the house, injured, but still alive. However, Joshua is too fed up with his life and decides to end it all by killing himself (offscreen). After hearing the gunshot, Jason already knows that his brother is dead. The film ends with Jason and Lyric riding a bus, leaving town.

REVIEW:

 I’m a little partial to this picture, as it is one of the first films I saw that showed boobs. Yeah, that isn’t that big of a deal to me now, but for a teenage boy, it was.

Keeping in step with the urban gangster films of the early to mid 90s, Jason’s Lyric chooses to go more with the with the everyday drama of young urban life with just some hints at gang life, if you can even call it that.

The plot, as mentioned above, is really a good brother/bad brother story. Jason, the good brother, kept his nose clean, has a job, and once he meets Lyric has the girl and a way out. The bad brother, Joshua, has apparently, been in and out of jail for various reasons, leading to him being nothing more than a disappointment to his mother and leaving the viewer to wonder what would happen to him if not for Jason looking out for him.

Belive it or not, the dram between the brothers is actually more of the major plot than the relationship between Jason and Lyric, even though that is the film’s title.

Speaking of said relationship involving Lyric, she seems to be wise beyond her years and a nice complement to Jason who is always trying to be the hero, which is why he is still in the ghetto and hasn’t left for greener pastures.

The climax of the film is one that can touch on the heartstrings if you one of those really emotional types. I’m not one of those, but I can tell how it could be construed as emotional.

Allen Payne gives the best performance I’ve seen from him in his career here as Jason. He does seem, at times, to be a bit of a dumb jock, but then a pretty fact can do that to guys sometimes, right?

Speaking of that face, Jade Pinkett (not yet Smith) looks positively radiant, but I can’t get over that horrendously fake Texas accent. As a native Texan, I’m offended by it, to be honest with you.

Bokeem Woodbine makes a name for himself as Josh, and may very well give the best performance of the movie at the end when he’s struggling between what I believe are the good and evil thought going through his brain.

Jason’s Lyric is one of those films that was popular when it was new, but has since been forgotten, which is quite a shame because this is really a fine piece of cinema. Sure, it isn’t one of the greats, but it is worth viewing. Why not check it out if you get the chance?

4 out of 5 stars

Moving Violations

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 23, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In this comedy by the director of the Police Academy series, Neal Israel, a brash Dana Cannon (John Murray, brother of Bill) lands in a crooked re-education school for delinquent drivers, run by Deputy Halik (James Keach, brother of Stacey). The objective is to lord it over the miscreant drivers sent to the school (wrongly given citations and tickets by cops out to fill a quota, according to opening sequences) and make some money in the bargain. Deputy Halik has already decided to flunk out anyone in his classes, with the objective of impounding their cars and then auctioning off the vehicles to the highest bidders. Dana, the irrepressible new student, manages to unite the other put-upon drivers at the school into a single, determined faction — and trouble quickly brews.

REVIEW:

 What ever possessed me to watch Moving Violations? Well, it was recommended by a friend of mine after we were having a discussion about Jennifer Tilly. I can’t say that the discussion and subsequent discovery of this flick led to great things, because this film is anything but.

Apparently, this is a cult favorite, which I can get. Many of my favorite films fall into that category, but this won’t be joining that category.

Best way I can describe Moving Violations is that it was meant as a spin-off of the Police Academy series (which I plan on reviewing before the year is over, for those of you who have been asking), using Bill Murray. Sadly, though, they didn’t get anyone from said franchise and had to settle for Murray’s younger brother, John, as well as some other actors’ siblings.

We’ve all seen many a cop pull over drivers for reasons unbeknownst to us, but is usually appears to be speeding, or something simple like that. Have you ever stopped to think what happens to the repeat offenders? They end up having to sit through traffic school, apparently.

That is the basic premise of the film. Throw in there a twisted, corrupt cop and kinky judge and that is what you get with this picture.

Believe it or not, this film is quite funny in parts, but those are outweighed by the horrible acting and direction in other parts. I’m going to compare this to that new show on Fox, Bob’s Burgers. Sure, it is funny in parts, but as a whole, it just doesn’t work, for me.

I truly belive, though, that had I ever been forced to sit through traffic school, I’d find this film funnier. It is kind of like watching American Pie Presents Band Camp. I’ve been through band camp before…not to that extent, but its a been there, done that situation, which makes it that much funnier. Had I not been in band, I’d probably be wondering why the hell they made a movie like that.

It is with that thought process that I am trying to find out exactly what it is that is keeping me from loving Moving Violations.

I mentioned before that this is a second rate cast, full of actors’ siblings, for the most part, led by Bill Murray’s brother, John. I was sitting here watching this thing, and I couldn’t help but wonder if they wanted him to actual act like his brother, if he chose to do that himself, or what the deal was. It seems like, if your brother is famous for acting a certain way and you want to make a name for yourself, then why on earth would you continue to act like him?

A young (and less voluptuous) Jennifer Tilly shows up as a rocket scientist who falls for Murray. Not bad for one of her first major movie roles.

“Hot Lips” from M*A*S*H, Sally Kellerman, shows up as a horny, kinky, corrupt judge. I’m not sure if this is how she normally talks, but it sounded like she was trying to be a sultry, seductive type…or just imitate Lena Horne. Either way, it rubbed me the wrong way.

There is also a cameo by the “Where’s the Beef” ladies, as well as the big screen debut of Don Cheadle.

Sure, Moving Violations isn’t totally horrible, but there are so many other things I could used this 90 minutes for. I will say, however, that while this wasn’t my cup of tea, I’m sure many out there will love it. It is for this reason, that I say if you’re a fan of the humor one used to be able to find in the movies (especially the 80s), then you’ll probably love this film, if you can get past the horrible way it seems to been forced into production without the pieces that were intended to be in place.

3 out of 5 stars