Archive for October, 2011

Shaun of the Dead

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

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Shaun (Simon Pegg) is a 29-year-old salesman whose life has no direction. His younger colleagues at work show him no respect and he has a rocky relationship with his stepfather, Phillip (Bill Nighy). He also has a tense relationship with his housemate, Pete (Peter Serafinowicz), because of Ed (Nick Frost), Shaun’s crude best friend who lives on their couch and deals marijuana. His girlfriend, Liz (Kate Ashfield), is unsatisfied with their social life, because it consists primarily of spending every evening at the Winchester, Shaun and Ed’s favourite pub, as well as the fact that they never do anything alone together – Shaun always brings Ed and she has to bring her flatmates, David (Dylan Moran) and Dianne (Lucy Davis). After a miserable day at his work, Shaun gets stopped on the street by an old friend Yvonne (Jessica Stevenson) who asks him what he and Liz are doing for their anniversary — a question which makes him realise he forgot to book a table at the restaurant he’d promised Liz the previous night. Faced with this failure on Shaun’s part, Liz decides she’s had enough and breaks up with him; Shaun then drowns his sorrows with Ed at the Winchester, and Ed, consoling him, ironically quotes “It’s not the end of the world.”

Just at that moment, a man (probably already a zombie) bangs on the window sluggishly. Ed laughs at the lumbering man as obviously already being drunk. The two return home after midnight and spin electro records as a kind of impromptu breakup party, only to have Pete confront them, who is suffering a headache after being mugged and bitten by “some crackheads”. Pete berates Shaun and tells him to sort his life out. Shaun, at first angry, slowly lets his (still intoxicated) mind absorb what Pete has told him, and indeed resolves to sort his life out.

All these revelations and upheavals comes at the same time as an apocalyptic uprising of zombies, although Shaun is too hungover to notice at first. He and Ed just barely begin to become aware what is happening after watching reports on TV and after several zombies appear at their house, and they decide they need to ensure they are somewhere safe. Shaun and Ed arm themselves with weapons from the shed and realise that the safest place they know is the Winchester. They plan to collect Shaun’s mother, Barbara (Penelope Wilton), and Phillip, and Liz and her flatmates and head to the Winchester. They discover that Pete is still in the house and is now a zombie, but manage to escape in Pete’s car. After collecting Barbara and Phillip, who is bitten in the process, they switch cars and drive in Phillip’s Jaguar and head to Liz, Dianne and David’s flat, and collect them. Before they make it to the Winchester, Phillip dies of his bite, after he manages to make peace with Shaun. Forced to abandon the car, they set off on foot, bumping into Yvonne and her own band of survivors. Discovering that the path is infested with zombies, they devise a plan to sneak by, pretending to be zombies, with the help of Dianne, who is an aspiring actress. Ed and Shaun get into an argument and the zombies, after watching the commotion, realise they are not dead and approach. David smashes the window with a dustbin and, while Shaun distracts the zombies, everyone takes refuge inside the pub. Shaun joins them after giving the zombies the slip.

After several hours, the zombies return. Ed inadvertently gives away their position when he wins on the fruit machine and the zombies converge on the pub. At that moment, the pub’s landlords, also zombies, arrive and attack them. Ed manages to get the Winchester rifle above the bar working and they use it to fend off the zombies breaking in. However, Barbara reveals a bite wound she picked up along the way and subsequently dies. Realising she is about to become a zombie, David points the rifle at her, only to meet resistance from Shaun and Ed, and in the ensuing confrontation, Dianne reveals that she is aware that David loves Liz and not her. After Barbara returns as a zombie, Shaun shoots her, and punches David. David grabs the rifle and attempts to shoot Shaun, but discovers that the rifle is out of ammo. Before anyone can react to his attempt to kill Shaun, David angrily storms to the door. Dianne talks him away from it, and David begins to apologize to Shaun. At that moment, the zombies break through a window and drag him out, disembowelling and dismembering him. Frantic, Dianne unbolts the door to leave and rescue David, exposing Shaun, Liz and Ed to the zombies. Ed prepares a Molotov cocktail to fend them off, but Pete arrives and bites him. He manages to get over the bar and Shaun uses the cocktail to ignite the bar. They escape into the cellar. Finding themselves cornered, they contemplate suicide, but discover a service hatch. Shaun and Liz escape through the hatch, and Ed, now mortally wounded from the ensuing zombie attack, stays behind with a cigarette and the rifle. Back on the street, Shaun and Liz prepare to fight the zombies once more, but at that moment, the British Army arrives and they are rescued. Yvonne, who has also survived, shows up and tells Shaun and Liz to follow her. They approach the safety of the trucks, reconciled.

Six months after the outbreak, all of the uninfected have returned to daily life, and the remaining zombies, retaining their instincts, are used as cheap labour and entertainment. Liz and Shaun have moved in together in Shaun’s house, and Shaun is keeping Ed, who is now a zombie, tethered in the shed and playing video games

REVIEW:

Zombies seem to be the next big thing on the horizon, thanks in large part to AMC’s Walking Dead. So, my other Halloween selection this year is the zombie spoof, Shaun of the Dead.

Now, if you’re not a fan of the dry wit that British comedy has, I would strongly urge you to stay away from this film, as you may not find it entertaining in the least, except for the zombie deaths and stuff. However, if you do enjoy British humor, you’ll notice how hilarious this film is.

Simon Pegg has made a niche for himself and it really works for him. Couple that with his “sidekick” Nick Frost, and you have one of the great comedic duos of our time.

Bill Nighy is also in here, but he plays this kid of douche-y stepdad role, but, in typical Nighy fashion, he steals the show without being the star of the film.

The main drawback to this flick is that it seems to spend too much time trying to get the audience to feel something for Shaun. While that makes sense, I still found myself wanting them to hurry up and get to the zombie parts. I mean, that’s the reason we’re watching this anyway, right?

On that note, these zombies actually didn’t look half bad, especially for a comedy. I must say that I was a tad bit impressed, but not overly so.

If you’re looking for gore, this isn’t the zombie flick for you. Remember, this is a comedy after all. Having said that, please don’t let the lack of blood and guts keep you from watching this very funny spoof on the genre. It is a really good film and, dare I say, a must-see. Why not check it out when you get the chance?

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

The Strangers

Posted in Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , on October 30, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

On the night of February 11, 2005, Kristen McKay (Liv Tyler) and James Hoyt (Scott Speedman) return to a remote summer vacation home owned by James’s parents after attending a friend’s wedding reception. Shortly after arriving in the middle of the night, a young blonde woman (Gemma Ward), whose face is obscured by low lighting, knocks on the front door asking for a Tamara, but leaves after James and Kristen tell her she is at the wrong house.

A short while later, James leaves to buy Kristen a pack of cigarettes, when the woman returns and begins to pound harshly on the front door. Kristen refuses to open up, locks all the doors, and tries to call James on her cell phone, which she discovers to be dead. She plugs it into the wall to charge near the fireplace and calls James on the house phone briefly before the line goes dead. She returns to the fireplace to retrieve her cell phone, but it has disappeared. Kristen then hears a noise coming from the back door. She grabs a large kitchen knife and opens the curtains, seeing a man wearing a sack mask over his head. Kristen screams and trips over a record player, and it begins to skip repeatedly. The front door then opens slightly, and Kristen peeks outside, only to see the blond woman in a Dollface mask. She slams and locks the door before going to hide in the bedroom. After yelling “go away,” the noises eventually stop, at which point she hears footsteps coming from the hallway, which turn out to be from James. As she explains what happened while he was gone, he tries to calm her down.

She frantically explains to James that she saw a man in a mask, and heard loud banging noises. James is not worried about the incidents, thinking that they were caused by some teenagers fooling around. He goes outside to his car, whose tires have been slashed and its windshield smashed in. As he searches the car, someone touches his back, but they run away before he is able to turn around and see them. Once he turns back to the car, he looks up and sees Dollface, and asks her to leave. After she runs off, James persuades Kristen that they need to escape in their car.

As they are backing out of the driveway, a large truck pulls up behind them with its floodlights on, revealing another woman, this one wearing a Pin-up mask. After she smashes the truck into the couples’ car, James and Kristen run back into the house, where James finds a shotgun. As the couple approach the front door armed with the gun, the Man in the Mask begins breaking down the door with an axe. Terrified, the couple block the door with a piano, and James attempts to shoot him, but misses. The couple decide to hole up in a bedroom, facing the open doorway with the shotgun armed and ready. They hear footsteps in the house, and one of the intruders puts on a country record.

James’s friend, Mike (Glenn Howerton), who James contacted earlier, arrives at the house in his car. When he tries to call James’s cell phone, it goes straight to voicemail. But while he is leaving a message, a rock crashes through his windshield, prompting him to jump out of the car. Baffled, he notices country music playing loudly from the house. He steps onto the porch and fails to notice Dollface hiding in the shadows there before entering the house. As Mike walks down the hallway, the Man in the Mask appears behind him, holding up the axe. When Mike steps in front of the closet, James fires the shotgun, thinking it is one of the masked killers, and kills Mike by shooting him in the face. After James and Kristen realize they killed Mike, they decide to leave the house to get help.

James leaves the house first, promising Kristen that he will return in a few minutes, but Kristen decides not to wait for him to return, and leaves to go to a shed in the backyard. There, she finds a radio, which she uses to try and contact someone for help, but when she raises her voice, Pin-Up Girl appears and smashes the radio. Kristen returns to the house to look for James. As she walks down the hall, she hears a few keys being played on the piano, followed by footsteps, and the lights suddenly shut off. The Man in the Mask enters the hallway, but does not notice Kristen, as he is looking in the other direction. Kristen hides in the kitchen pantry while the man searches the hallway. He sits down at the table a few feet away from the closet before leaving the room. Kristen peers out of the closet, only to find the blond, masked woman staring back at her. The woman breaks the pantry door in, but suddenly stops. Kristen exits the closet to find the woman waiting for her with a knife. Kristen opens a kitchen drawer to arm herself as well when James is pushed into the house by the masked man, who now has the gun. When James tells Kristen to run, she sprints for the front door, only to find Pin-Up girl blocking her way. She runs into a bedroom and slams the door before attempting to escape through the window, and suddenly the lights come back on and the door swings open. Kristen walks back toward the hall to see who opened the door, when the Man in the Mask grabs her and throws her into the wall. Barely conscious, she is dragged down the hallway.

James and Kristen wake up the next day and find themselves tied to chairs in the living room while the three strangers stand over them. Before removing their masks, Pin-Up Girl walks into the kitchen and returns with a large knife. Kristen asks, “Why are you doing this to us?” and Dollface answers, “Because you were home.” Each of the strangers then takes turns stabbing James and Kristen seemingly to death. After they escape, Dollface shows feelings of guilt, and they stop the truck for her to ask two young Christian boys for a religious pamphlet, before continuing to drive away with Pin-Up Girl telling her that “It’ll be easier next time.” The two young Christian boys (Alex Fisher and Peter Clayton-Luce) are then seen entering the house only to find James and Kristen lying unmoving in the living room. One of the boys goes up to Kristen, and as he is about to touch her, she grabs his arm and screams in terror.

REVIEW:

Seeing as how tomorrow is Halloween, I figured I’d do a bit of horror this weekend. The first of which is one of the films that slipped past me when it was released, The Strangers.

I’ve got to say that it was great to see a horror film that didn’t rely on graphic gore. There is a time and place for that, but truth be told, the scariest films are those where the sheer idea of something out there are what freak the audience out.

In this film, that is definitely the case, as these random strangers just seem to appear out of thin air and continue to more or less stalk the stars of the film, though it is never really revealed why until the film’s end.

I could sit here and talk about the acting and whatnot, but who watches a horror flick for the “brilliant performances”? Truth be told, anyone can star in a horror flick as long as they can run around and scream at the top of their lungs.

The creepy factor is ratcheted up by the direction of this film. Something about the way the camera pans over and we see a long figure with one of these masks on just standing there. It really is downright freaky!

Now, for some reason, The Strangers wasn’t a huge box office hit. I think that had more to do with what was released that week, though, but not sure. Having said that, some of the best horror flicks often are box office duds, or at least not the most successful. Do I think you should check this film out? sure, but it isn’t the best horror flick out there…at the same time, it isn’t the worst, either. Why not check it out and enjoy the creepiness!

3 out of 5 stars

Wayne’s World

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

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Wayne Campbell (Myers) and Garth Algar (Carvey) are the hosts of Wayne’s World, a local Friday late-night cable access program based in Aurora, Illinois, where they ogle pictures of beautiful celebrity women, play air guitar and drums, and interview local people, indirectly making fun of them over the course of the interview. The program is popular with local viewers. One day Benjamin Kane (Lowe), a television station executive, is visiting a girlfriend (Ione Skye) who turns the TV to the show. When she tells him how many people watch the show, he instructs his producer Russell Finley (Kurt Fuller) to find out where the show is taped, telling him they may have an opportunity for a huge sponsorship.

Benjamin shows up next week in Wayne’s basement and introduces himself after the show ends. He offers to buy the rights to the show for $10,000 ($5,000 each) and to keep Wayne and Garth on for what he describes as a “huge” salary. Garth then covertly speaks to the audience, sensing he has a bad feeling that Wayne is selling out, but he is too shy to confront Wayne about it. Following the purchase of the show, it is quickly “reinvented”, complete with a weekly interview guaranteed to Noah Vanderhoff (Brian Doyle-Murray), the show’s sponsor. The first reinvented show is also their last, as Wayne holds up a series of cards with questions on the front and, unknowingly to Vanderhoff, insulting phrases on the back such as “Sphincter Boy” (with an arrow pointing at Vanderhoff), “He blows goats…I have proof” and “This man has no penis”, prompting Benjamin to call Wayne up to the control booth and fire him on the spot.

At the same time, Wayne’s blossoming relationship with hard rock vocalist and bassist Cassandra (Tia Carrere), the frontwoman of a band named Crucial Taunt, leads to a rift forming between Wayne and Garth. It erupts after Wayne walks out on the show, leaving Garth to a bout of stage fright for the rest of the show. The two separate, but later make up after Wayne breaks up with Cassandra following an argument between them over Benjamin.

While making up with Garth, Wayne remembers a limo belonging to record executive Frankie Sharp (Frank DiLeo) outside an Alice Cooper concert in Milwaukee. He also remembers that a security guard at the concert (Chris Farley) said that Sharp would be riding through Chicago later that day and forms a plan with Garth to get her back. With everyone in the donut shop helping, Wayne is able to convince Cassandra, who is at a video shoot directed by Benjamin, to leave the shoot with the band and head back to Aurora with him to perform on the show. Garth, meanwhile, hacks into a satellite system and is able to route the signal from the broadcast into the television set in Sharp’s limo. In the meantime, the police keep Benjamin at bay and leave him unable to enter the house until the show’s over.

Nearing the end of Cassandra’s song, Frankie Sharp and Benjamin enter the basement. Once the song is finished, Frankie says to Cassandra that it is the wrong time to sign her band, causing her to become infuriated with Wayne. Wayne is called small-time by Benjamin just before he leaves with Cassandra, and Wayne’s crazy ex-girlfriend Stacy (Lara Flynn Boyle) comes in to announce to Wayne that she is pregnant. Suddenly, an electrical fire starts from the broadcasting equipment and consumes the house. While Wayne walks out of the burned-down house with an injured Garth, Cassandra lies in paradise with Benjamin. Wayne and Garth then decide they don’t like that ending, and decide to do the “Scooby-Doo ending” instead. Wayne then pulls off Benjamin’s face, revealing that he is actually Old Man Withers, who then remarks, true to Scooby-Doo form, “And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for you snooping kids!” After this, Garth imitates Scooby-Doo by saying “Good One, Shaggy.” Wayne and Garth then decide to do the “mega happy ending”, where Frankie gives Cassandra a six album record deal, Wayne and Cassandra kiss, Russell and the crew member who keeps saying “I love you” get together, while he announces how he discovered that “platonic love can exist between two grown men”, Noah is glad people are seeing him in a new light after he started sponsoring Wayne’s World, Benjamin realizes being successful doesn’t get you everything, and Garth finally gets his dream girl (Donna Dixon).

REVIEW:

Those of us that were growing up in the late 80s-early 90s may remember a time when Saturday Night Live was actually funny. A focal point of those shows was a sketch featuring two guys and their basic cable TV show. Little did anyone know that this little sketch would go on to be a big hit movie, Wayne’s World!

Now, this film, like the sketch, doesn’t have a “plot”, but there is a bit of a story for those that just have to have one.

I really think the fact that this story was forced upon them in order to make a “successful” film actually took away from the picture. The best and most memorable Wayne’s World sketches are those where the guys just went off the cuff.

Sadly, this film didn’t have that feeling, but rather that of a product that was taken over by greedy corporations, similar to the way it is depicted in the film. Maybe that was done on purpose, but I can’t be for certain.

There is a nice, fun, vibe that goes on throughout this picture, especially with some of the toungue-in-cheek jokes, such as the blatant product placement and of course, the stuff we’ve come to know and love from the sketches.

I think this is the film that introduced me, and I’m sure many other people of younger generations, to Queen. The most memorable scene in here is in the car when they sing “Bohemian Rhapsody” and then start head banging. Yes, that’s even more memorable that Tia Carrere is a bikini…but not much.

The cast is hilarious. Mike Myers and Dana Carvey continue to show what great chemistry they have.

Tia Carerre is great not only as the token eye candy, but as a strong female lead here, as well.

Rob Lowe is about as slimy as one can get, which makes him the perfect villain for this picture.

Oh, how I remember these days when comedy films were actually funny and didn’t try to make any kind of political statement or masquerade as a drama. This, I think, is the reason I love this film so much. Not to mention the fact that it cracks me up everytime I see and brings back that 90s nostalgia. I highly recommend it to all of you that haven’t seen it. You don’t know what you’re missing!

4 out of 5 stars

Winnie the Pooh

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

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film is based on three stories found in the Milne books. Two stories are from Winnie-the-Pooh: “In Which Eeyore Loses a Tail and Pooh Finds One” and “In Which Piglet Meets a Heffalump”. The other story is found in The House at Pooh Corner: “In Which Rabbit Has a Busy Day and We Learn What Christopher Robin Does in the Mornings”. Some elements, such as the gang thinking that Christopher Robin has been captured by a monster, are based on events from the film Pooh’s Grand Adventure: The Search for Christopher Robin

Pooh wakes up one day to find that he is out of honey. While out searching for more, Pooh discovers that Eeyore has lost his tail. Pooh, Tigger, Rabbit, Owl, Kanga, and Roo come to the rescue, and Christopher Robin decides to hold a contest to see who can find a replacement for Eeyore’s tail. The prize for the winner is a fresh pot of honey. After many failed attempts for what would replace Eeyore’s tail (such as a cuckoo clock), Kanga suggests they use a scarf, but it unravels.

The next day, Pooh goes to visit Christopher Robin and he finds a note that says “Gon Out Bizy Back Soon”. Because Pooh is unable to read the note, he asks for Owl’s help. Owl’s poor reading comprehension skills lead Pooh and his friends to believe that Christopher Robin has been abducted by a ruthless and mischievous monster they call the “Backson”. Pooh and his friends plan to trap the Backson in a pit, which they think he’ll fall into after following a trail of items leading to it. Meanwhile, Tigger, wanting a sidekick to help him defeat the Backson, recruits Eeyore to be a second Tigger. He dresses up like the Backson and tries to teach Eeyore how to fight. Eeyore, who is doing this against his will, escapes from Tigger and hides underwater.

After a failed attempt to get honey from a bee hive, Pooh’s imagination combined with his hunger get the better of him, and accidentally falls into the pit meant for the Backson. Rabbit, Kanga, Roo, Owl and Eeyore (who had found an anchor whilst he was hiding to replace his own tail) try to get him out, but fall in themselves. Piglet attempts to get Pooh and friends out of the trap (though continuously irritating Rabbit with overintrepretations of his instructions, who is further miffed [though hiding it] when realising that Owl could have flown them out of the pit), but he runs into Tigger, still in his Backson outfit, and mistakes him for the actual monster. Piglet escapes from Tigger on a red balloon, which knocks some of the storybook’s letters into the pit. After the chase, Tigger and Piglet fall into the trap as well, where Eeyore reminds Tigger that he, being “the only one”, is “the most wonderful thing about Tiggers”. Eventually, Pooh figures out to use the fallen letters to form a ladder, and the animals are able to escape the pit. They soon find Christopher Robin, and tell him about the Backson, but he clarifies, saying he meant to be “back soon”.

Later, Pooh visits Owl only to find that Owl was the one that took Eeyore’s tail, not realizing it belonged to Eeyore. Owl had been using Eeyore’s tail as a bell pulley for his door. Pooh chooses to leave and return the tail to Eeyore instead of sharing a pot of honey with Owl. Christopher Robin is proud of Pooh’s kindness and rewards him with a large pot of honey.

Following the credits, it is revealed that the rumored Backson actually exists deep in the woods, but is much friendlier than imagined. He discovers the trail of objects that the animals left, and picks up each one, planning to return them to whoever owns them. He ends up falling into the pit that was originally meant for him and waits for someone to arrive and help him out. He adds, “I sure hope that fellow will be back soon”.

REVIEW:

I believe that it was around this time last year that I left a comment on someone’s blog that it won’t be long before they start remaking animated films. Sure enough, here is our first foray into that area. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Winnie the Pooh isn’t necessarily a remake, as much as it is stories from the book and other films in the Pooh franchise being spliced together with certain details being changed. For instance, remember the Huffalump and that catchy song? Well, in this film they did almost a parody of it and called it the Backson.

I had my preconceived notions of this film before I even watched it, but it got rave reviews, so I decided to see what the hype was about. Let me make one thing clear…this is not a bad film, if this is your first outing with Pooh. However, most of us grew up with the Saturday morning cartoon and probably watched The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh at some point in time.

I think the biggest drawback for me with this film was that they didn’t come up with a new story. If you’re going to release a new Pooh film, then for goodness sakes give us a new story!

I have to give kudos to much of the voice cast, especially Jim Cummings who sounds almost identical to Sterling Holloway’s tenor timbre. I was impressed. Also receiving lauds from me is Craig Ferguson. While he doesn’t sound anywhere near the original voice of Owl, he brings the character to life in his own way and maintains his personality.

The rest of the cast, though, I felt was sadly miscast. My biggest qualm is with Bud Luckey as Eeyore. For those of you who don’t know, Peter Cullen, best known as the voice of Optimus Prime, provided the voice of Eeyore since at least the 80s. I have to wonder why he didn’t for this film, unless there was some schedule conflicts with the Transformers films or he just didn’t want to be a part of what he felt was not going to be any good, which I can totally understand.

Finally, Christopher Robin is too British for my taste here, but I can live with that. What I can’t fathom is how they made Kanga almost a bitch! in every incarnation I’ve seen, Kanga has been uber-mothering, and not more or less a female version of Rabbit. Ugh! That was so frustrating.

The songs in the film are horrible. It was as if they hired some commercial jingle writer to compose all of them in like 10 minutes. The only exception is Zooey Deschanel’s  memorable take on the theme. The rest are quite forgettable.

Disney took a risk with this film. Not only was it a near remake, but it was released against arguably the most anticipated film of the summer, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, pt II. I do congratulate them on using hand drawn animation. We don’t get enough of this today. While this film isn’t my favorite in the Disney collection, it isn’t the worst they’ve put out. The sure family fun and sweetness factor makes it worth watching, and be sure to catch the Nessie short, as well. With all that said, this isn’t worth adding to your DVD collection,. just a couple of viewings.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

Mississippi Masala

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on October 26, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

A third-generation Ugandan Indian family residing in Kampala, is expelled from the country in 1972 by the Idi Amin regime. The father, Jay (Roshan Seth) moves with wife, Kinnu (Sharmila Tagore) and daughter, Mina (Sarita Choudhury) to Greenwood, Mississippi to live with family members who own a chain of motels there. Kinnu obtains work in a liquor store.

In 1990, 24-year-old Mina, who cleans at Anil’s (Ranjit Chowdhry) family’s motel (the Monte Cristo), falls in love with Demetrius (Denzel Washington), a local African American self-employed carpet cleaner. The respective families erupt in turmoil after the pair are discovered and confronted by members of the Indian family during a clandestine weekend of pleasure in Biloxi.

Ultimately, the two families cannot come to terms with the interracial pair, who flee the state together in Demetrius’ van. After a brief return to Kampala to attend a court proceeding on the disposition of his confiscated Ugandan house, Jay relinquishes his long-nurtured dream of returning to Uganda, the place he considered home.

REVIEW:

What’s this? A film about race that isn’t racist? Is that even possible? Wait…Spike Lee’s grubby little hands aren’t anywhere near this, so of course it is!

Mississippi Masala is a film about the trials and tribulations of an African-American man and an Indian American woman in the backwoods of Mississippi.

This is one powerful film. It starts out dealing with the Indian people being forced out of Africa by some dictator. Throughout the film, there ar a few flashbacks, but mainly , the father is trying to get back to his home.

Then we have the racial tension. This is Mississippi, so if you’re not white, you’re automatically going to be looked down upon. It is still like that today in some parts. Such a shame!

Finally, there is a little speech that Denzel gives to the girl’s father that basically says that the Indians aren’t but a shade or two lighter than him, yet they seem to think they’re white as snow and look down on him, even though he owns his own business and isn’t a thug. One of the best lines in the film, in my opinion.

This is one of the dramas that will really make you think. Just because two people aren’t of the same color, do we really have the right to interfere in their lives because their love isn’t “normal”. Did we learn nothing from Romeo & Juliet?

The director did a great job getting that point across without getting preachy or all racist with things. She also showed both sides of the spectrum and a little bit of the white side, but since none of the major characters were white, there really was no need to dwell on that view, in my opinion.

Spike Lee should take a hint from this woman on how to make these “race” films. Everything does not revolve around the black man, as it does in his warped mind, apparently.

The pacing of this film I felt could have been a little better. I realize this is a drama and not a fast-paced action flick, but there were times when it just felt like they weren’t doing anything other than spinning their wheels , and that should not be the case. The filmmakers should have just moved that scene along, or if it wasn’t working, put it on the cutting room floor.

Denzel Washington, as always, is a consummate professional. He delivers a powerful performance and, if I didn’t know otherwise, I’d think he was from Mississippi.

Sarita Choudhury gives a pretty good performance as the rebellious Mina. I don’t know. There is just something about her look that doesn’t make think she’s Indian, even though she , and it took away from the film whenever she was on, with the exception of a couple of scenes.

In the end, Mississippi Masala can best be described as another version of Jungle Fever (not sure which came first), but without all the racist overtones. Sure, this film has its issues, but at its heart, it is very powerful, yet simplistic film. I highly recommend this as a must-see before you die.

4 out of 5 stars

Bridesmaids

Posted in Chick Flicks, Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on October 23, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Annie (Kristen Wiig) is a single woman in her mid 30s, living in Milwaukee. After her dream bakery, Cake Baby, failed, she lost her boyfriend and all of her savings, and now works in a jewelry store and is in a sexual relationship with the self-absorbed and uncommitted Ted (Jon Hamm). Her friendship with her childhood best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) is her only source of happiness.

When Lillian becomes engaged to her boyfriend, Doug (Tim Heidecker), she asks Annie to be her maid of honor. Annie agrees, but is secretly concerned about how things will change. At the engagement party, Annie meets her fellow bridesmaids: Lillian’s cynical cousin Rita (Wendi McLendon-Covey), idealistic friend Becca (Ellie Kemper), raunchy future sister-in-law Megan (Melissa McCarthy) and Helen (Rose Byrne), the “perfect” wife of Doug’s boss. Helen and Annie are immediately jealous of one another’s friendship with Lillian. Driving home, Annie is pulled over by Officer Nathan Rhodes (Chris O’Dowd) for having broken taillights. The two flirt, and he lets her off with a warning after discovering that she was the owner of Cake Baby, which he always enjoyed.

Annie’s attempts to serve as the maid of honor go abysmally after she takes them to a seedy Brazilian restaurant that gives everyone violent food poisoning. Meanwhile, Helen, with her wealth and connections, constantly upstages Annie: rejecting Annie’s idea of Parisian bridal shower, getting them access to a chic bridal-gown studio after Annie failed to make a reservation, and ordering expensive designer bridesmaids gowns for the group that are beyond Annie’s means. Worried about her limited finances, Annie suggests a bachelorette party at Lillian’s parents’ lake house. Helen overrules her and books a trip to Las Vegas. Annie refuses to allow Helen to buy a first-class ticket for her and sits in economy class. Because Annie is afraid of flying, Helen gives her sedatives and alcohol, causing Annie to become inebriated and paranoid, and her outbursts forces the plane to land in Casper, Wyoming, where the wedding party is escorted off the plane by police, canceling the Las Vegas bachelorette party. On the bus trip back to Milwaukee, Annie tries to apologize but Lillian quietly states that she wants Helen to take over planning the shower and wedding.

Distraught, Annie contacts Nathan and the two hang out while she discusses her difficulties. Nathan is sympathetic and encourages her to open a new bakery, but Annie refuses; her business’ failure was so painful that she has given up baking entirely. After spending the night together, Nathan buys baking supplies, hoping to reignite her dream. This makes her uncomfortable and she abruptly leaves, breaking things off with him despite liking him. She is then fired from her job for lashing out at one of her customers and evicted from her apartment. With nowhere else to go, and her friendship with Lillian strained, she moves back in with her mother (Jill Clayburgh).

Attending the bridal shower, Annie discovers that Helen has created an elaborate version of Annie’s Parisian theme, later upstaging Annie’s heartfelt, handmade gift by giving Lillian a trip to Paris to be fitted for her wedding gown by one of the world’s top designers. Annie snaps and throws a tantrum, destroying the decorations and food. Lillian kicks her out of the shower and disinvites her from the wedding. On the way home, Annie’s unfixed taillights cause a crash and she is stranded. Nathan answers the emergency call, exasperated that she still has not fixed her taillights, and tells Annie how much she hurt him and not to contact him again. Annie calls Ted for a ride, but when he expects sexual favors for the drive, she dumps him and walks home.

Annie becomes reclusive, doing nothing but watch TV. Megan finds her and tells her to stop feeling sorry for herself. Annie realizes her errors and decides to make amends with Nathan, getting her taillights fixed and baking him a cake, but he appears to rebuff the gesture, leaving the cake outside his house. On the day of the wedding, Helen appears on her doorstep, begging for help in finding Lillian who has gone missing. In the car, Helen tearfully apologizes for all she has done to hurt Annie and explains how lonely she is: her husband is uncaring and she has no friends, suspecting that she is only invited to weddings for her party planning skills and connections.

Annie contacts Nathan, who begrudgingly helps them find Lillian hiding at her own apartment. Lillian is overwhelmed by Helen’s micromanaging and fears how marriage will change her life, including leaving Annie alone. Annie reassures her, and herself, that everything will be fine and helps Lillian get ready for the wedding as her maid of honor once more. After Lillian and Doug leave for their honeymoon, Annie reconciles with Helen, touching her with a gesture of friendship. Helen then quietly reveals that she has arranged for Nathan to pick Annie up, after seeing that they were in love. Nathan reveals that he ate the cake Annie made for him. After sharing a kiss, he takes her home in his squad car.

REVIEW:

Every summer, there is that one film, usually a chick flick, that surprises every one with how well received it is and how well it does at the box office. This year, that film was Bridesmaids.

I’ve heard people say that this is the female equivalent of The Hangover. I can see the comparison, and I’m sure the female readers will side with this one since they can relate a bit more. For me, though, give me the random misadventures of a bachelor party gone awry.

The plot of this films is basically the misadventures of a woman in her mid 30s feeling the pressure of the economic downturn and watching all her friends get married, while she is on the verge of having to move back in with her mother.

I’ve heard horror stories about brides, or should I say bridezillas, and the desire to make sure their bridesmaids look horrible. I was half expecting this to go that road, but instead it ended up being more of a middle age coming of age comedy, complete with “potty” humor. The dress thing was best left to 27 Dresses, I suppose.

The gross-out humor here, though, is what brings people to this film. Someone said that the fact there haven’t been an R-rated comedies of this nature featuring women, is because many men think of them as too delicate to do such things. I’m inclined to agree and believe that the shock value of some like say, Melissa McCarthy climbing onto a sink and taking a dump is hilarious.

Maybe it was just me, but I really could care less about Kristen Wiig’s character and her life drama. I’m not sure if it was because the other characters were all so much more interesting, or if it was because I’m over her, but she just seemed a bit whiny for most of the film. Hell, even when she was stranded in the middle of nowhere, I felt nothing. Who knows?

Bridesmaids is actually pretty enjoyable. I think it is more of a chick flick, rather than just a comedy featuring women, though. Blame that little romance with the cop on that, though. Should you check this out? Well, I would say yes, but I’m sure there are moments that will turn both men and women off, so it depends on how squeamish you are when it comes to potty humor and how bored you get with the romantic comedy stuff. That being said, this film did not forget it was a comedy, and that is what I really like about it.

4 out of 5 stars

Bad Teacher

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

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) is a golddigging Chicago middle school teacher at the fictional John Adams Middle School who curses at her students, consumes lots of alcohol, smokes marijuana, and only shows movies while she sleeps through class. She plans to quit teaching and marry her wealthy fiancé, but when he dumps her, she must resume her job as a teacher. She tries to win over substitute teacher Scott Delacorte (Justin Timberlake), who is also wealthy. Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch), a dedicated teacher and colleague of Elizabeth, also pursues Scott while the school’s gym teacher, Russell Gettis (Jason Segel), makes advances on Elizabeth which she rejects.

Elizabeth plans to get surgery to enlarge her breasts, believing she is being overlooked for women with larger chests. However, she cannot afford the $10,000 procedure. To make matters worse, Scott admits that he has a crush on Amy, only viewing Elizabeth as a friend. Elizabeth attempts to raise money for the surgery by participating in her 7th grade class car wash in provocative clothing and by manipulating parents to give her money for more school supplies and tutoring, but her efforts are not enough. Amy, acting on the growing resentment between them due to her pursuit of Scott and ignoring of school rules, attempts to warn the principal about Elizabeth’s embezzlement scheme, but he dismisses her claims as groundless.

Elizabeth later learns that the teacher of the class with the highest state test scores will receive a $5,700 bonus. With this knowledge, Elizabeth decides to change her style of teaching, forcing the class to study intensely for the upcoming test. However, the change is not enough and the students have low scores on their quizzes, frustrating her even more. Meanwhile, she befriends Russell the gym teacher as Amy and Scott start dating. Elizabeth steals the state test answers by impersonating a journalist and seducing Carl Halabi (Thomas Lennon), who is in charge of the exam. Elizabeth drugs Carl in his office, and steals the test. A month later, Elizabeth wins the bonus and pays for the appointment to get her breasts enlarged.

When Elizabeth learns that Amy and Scott are chaperoning an upcoming field trip, she taints an apple with poison ivy and leaves it for Amy. Amy ends up with blisters covering her face and backs out of the trip. On the trip, Elizabeth seduces Scott. They engage in non-penetrative sex, and Elizabeth secretly calls Amy to ensure she knows. However, Scott’s peculiar behavior starts annoying Elizabeth. Elizabeth later gives advice to one of her students (Matthew J. Evans) who has an unrequited crush on a superficial girl in class, which causes her to reflect on how she has been superficial as well.

After hearing Elizabeth and Scott having sex, Amy switches Elizabeth’s desk with her own to trick the janitor into unlocking Elizabeth’s sealed drawer. The evidence Amy finds leads her to suspect Elizabeth cheated on the state exam. Amy informs the principal and gets Carl to testify against her. However, Elizabeth took embarrassing photos of Carl while he was drugged and uses them to blackmail him to say she is innocent. Having noticed her desk was switched, Elizabeth informs the principal that some teachers in the school are doing drugs. When the police bring a sniffer dog to search the school, they find drugs in Amy’s classroom, in Elizabeth’s desk. Amy is moved to another school by the superintendent. Scott asks Elizabeth to start over, but Elizabeth rejects him in favor of a relationship with Russell.

When the new school year starts, Elizabeth is kinder to her co-workers, has started a relationship with Russell, and did not get the breast enlargement because she feels that she looks fine the way she is. Elizabeth also has a new position in the school as the new guidance counselor.

REVIEW:

Some of you may remember in the not-so-distant past that Cameron Diaz was hot as hell. Somewhere along the way, she maintained her hotness, but just became another hot blonde actress. Then, along comes this film, Bad Teacher, which shows us once again that Cameron is one hot chica!

The premise of this film is Diaz is a teacher at the end of the school year. She is all set to get married to her fiancee and more or less tell the other teachers and whatnot to kiss her ____. Unfortunately for her, the finacee (and his mother) decide that she’s in it for nothing more than the money, which she is.

Fast forward a few months, and she’s back at school, but totally miserable, unfocused, and uncaring. Instead of actually teaching, she shows movies to the students, and pretty much does everything that “a teacher is not supposed to do”. While she is doing this, she tries to garner the attention of young substitute teacher, who has money, and ignoring the advances of a P.E. teacher who is vying for her affections. I think we can all see where this is going, right?

While that story doesn’t sound like much, it is the comedic performances of the cast that really makes it worth watching, especially that of Diaz and an over the top Lucy Punch.

Strangely enough, and maybe I missed it, there was no specific reason that Punch’s character was so hateful of Diaz. Then again, women will be women, I suppose.

That really is my only grip with this film. I really did enjoy it, but I’m not going to go out and buy the DVD. Still, it is worth watching, so why not give it a shot. You never know, you might just like it!

4 out of 5 stars

The Three Musketeers

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 23, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In Venice, the Three Musketeers Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), Porthos (Ray Stevenson) and Aramis (Luke Evans), with the help of Athos’ lover, Milady de Winter (Milla Jovovich), steal airship blueprints made by Leonardo Da Vinci. However, they are betrayed by Milady, who gives the blueprints to the Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom). Upon returning to France, the Musketeers are forced to disband by Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz) for their failure.

One year later, the young D’Artagnan (Logan Lerman) leaves Gascony for Paris in hopes of becoming a Musketeer, like his father once was, only to learn that they no longer exist. D’Artagnan ends up challenging Captain Rochefort (Mads Mikkelsen), the leader of Richelieu’s guard, to a duel after being offended by him, but Rochefort merely shoots him while he’s distracted. In an attempt to get revenge, D’Artagnan offends Athos, Porthos and Aramis for petty reasons, and schedules duels with each of them, at the same day and at the same place, but in different times, not knowing who they are.

Before they can duel, however, D’Artagnan and the Musketeers are attacked by the guards for breaking the law by having a public duel. They fight the soldiers off, at which point D’Artagnan discovers their true identities, but end up being captured and brought before the young King Louis XIII (Freddie Fox) and his wife, Queen Anne (Juno Temple). Richelieu attempts to convince them to execute the four prisoners, but they are too impressed, and congratulate them instead, much to Richelieu’s anger.

Later, Richelieu meets with Milady, who is actually working for him. He orders her to plant false love letters among Queen Anne’s possessions and steal Queen Anne’s diamond necklace and hide it in the Tower of London with the objective of framing Queen Anne of having an affair with the Duk of Buckingham, who is in France on behalf of the King of England, and who has built a fully armed airship using the designs stolen from the Musketeers. The affair would force King Louis to execute Queen Anne and declare war on England. At this point, the people would demand a more experienced leader for the country: Richelieu himself. Before leaving, Milady demands that Richelieu gives her an authorization declaring that she was working on behalf of France’s best interests.

However, Queen Anne’s lady-in-waiting Constance Bonacieux (Gabriella Wilde) discovers his plan and pleads with the Musketeers to stop Richelieu. They follow Milady and Buckingham to London, while Constance is kidnapped by Rochefort for helping the Musketeers to escape from him. Meanwhile, King Louis finds the false letters and is advised by Richelieu to set up a ball in which Queen Anne would be forced to wear the necklace. If she doesn’t, then her affair is real, and there will be war.

In London, Milady warns Buckingham of the Musketeers arrival, claiming that they want revenge for being outsmarted by Buckingham one year prior. Buckingham captures D’Artagnan and prepares to interrogate him when D’Artagnan reveals that he was acting as a decoy to allow the Musketeers to steal Buckingham’s airship. They rescue D’Artagnan and capture Milady, who gives them the authorization in an attempt to have her life spared. Upon realizing she failed, she jumps out of the airship into the English Channel.

The Musketeers recover the necklace and return to London, only to be attacked by Rochefort, piloting an airship secretly built by Richelieu, who was given copies of Da Vinci’s blueprints by Milady. Rochefort feigns an attempt to exchange Constance for the necklace in order to capture D’Artagnan, but the Musketeers come to his rescue and the two ships crash in the Notre Dame Cathedral, where D’Artagnan fights and defeats Rochefort, rescuing Constance, who returns the necklace to Queen Anne.

The Musketeers arrive at the ball and, for the sake of King Louis’ and his people, lie by saying that Rochefort was trying to sabotage an airship that Richelieu built for them, for the purpose of identifying a traitor. To convince King Louis, Athos presents Milady’s authorization, which King Louis accepts. Richelieu, satisfied, offers the Musketeers a place in his army, but they refuse, which infuriates Richelieu, who swears revenge.

Meanwhile, in London, Milady is rescued by Buckingham, who reveals that he intents to avenge her and destroy the Musketeers. It is revealed that Buckingham is advancing towards France with a massive fleet of airships and sea-faring ships

REVIEW:

One review I heard about this film said that it was “yet another in a long line of unnecessary (modern) interpretations on the classics [sic]”.

I have to agree and disagree with that statement. On one hand there have been countless takes on The Three Musketeers, most of which are forgetful. On the flipside of things, this version is a new take on the Dumas classic.

It has been some time since I’ve read the actual novel, so details are a bit sketchy, at best, in my head, but with a few exceptions, I think this kep pretty close to the source material, which is a huge plus. It is a well-known fact that I don’t particularly care for massive deviations from the source material.

Now, this film was another of those wonderful 3D flicks (not the sarcasm, there). No, I didn’t shell out the extra $$$ for it. I did think about it, though. For some reason, I was thinking the Milla Jovovich scene would be great in 3D. Strangely enough, the few scenes that looked like they might be worth seeing in 3D were all contained in the first 10 minutes of the film.

One would thing with all the swordplay that should be  encompassed in a film like this that some thrusts and parrys towards the audience would be great use of the 3D. Not to mention those death-defying traps Milla had to twist and turn through in bullet time. I guess that would just make too much sense, though. At least, to my knowledge, it was converted at the last minute.

The action scenes in the film are great. Of course, it is kind of hard to screw up swashbuckling sword fights and an occasional pistol thrown in there for good measure.

The airship scenes are amazing. Whether you like this film or not, that climactic battle is a must-see.

If there is a drawback to the action part of this flick, it has to be the overuse of bullet time. This is something that has been plaguing films ever since the release of The Matrix. For some reason, filmmakers have felt that since it worked so well there, they need to keep it going ad nauseum. While in some instances, it is a good technique, there is sch a thing as too much.

The plot, as I mention, is very close to the actual novel, so I can’t fault them for that, but I think that they didn’t spend enough time developing the musketeers. I say this because it seemed like every other scene was either the Cardinal or Milady (who just happens to be married to the director).

I have a bit of an issue with the cast. The film is set in France, and yet almost every member of the cast has a British accent! WTF?!? That isn’t right!

On top of that, the way Louis and Anne were portrayed irked me. I know he is supposed to be something of a petulant child and whatnot, but his obsession with fashion and his mannerisms led me to believe that he was homosexual.

With Queen Anne, I couldn’t help but think of the child-like princess from The Neverending Story or the empress in Dungeons & Dragons. This is not to say that is a bad thing, especially given that she was youthful, I just think she looked a little too young.

The musketeers, on the other hand,m were perfectly cast, though I couldn’t help but think of Aramis, played by Luke Evans, as some kind of mixture of Antonio Banderas and Orlando Bloom.

Logan Lerman, who you may know better as Percy Jackson, really shocked me with his acting chops in this film. I honestly wasn’t expecting him to be as good as he was. Tell me again, why they didn’t want him to be Spider-Man in that unnecessary reboot?

As D’Artagnan, he has that youthful exuberance and cockiness we have come to expect from the character, and he seems to have some really good chemistry with the musketeers which is what was really necessary to make this believable

One review I read called Orlando Bloom’s performance as the villainous Buckingham “cartoonish”. Well, you know what, for the tone of this film it really works! On top of that, how often do we get to see him as a villain? If he wants to go all Snidely Whiplash with his villanous exploits, then by all means, don’t criticize the man. I think he did a good job.

Christoph Waltz was great, but there were times when it seemed as if he was making an attempt to channel John Malkovich with his speech patterns. It was kind of odd.

Milla Jovovich, for all her beauty and hotness, just did not belong in the world. There are some actresses that just seem like they were made for period roles, Milla is not one of them. On the other hand, though, she did a decent job portraying the duality of Milady and her deceptions, as well as pulling off those stunts, but let’s be truthful here…if not for her husband directing, she would not have been in this role.

One more note about Milla…she apparently has been criticizing Summit Entertainment for marketing this as a “family film” and accusing them of only promoting the Twilight films, while all the rest of their films have to fend for themselves.

I see where she’s coming from with the second half of that accusation. There wasn’t much promotion on this side of the pond. I think the only interview I saw for it was Orlando Bloom on Chelsea Lately, which isn’t exactly the most influential audience (even if it does include me). Yet, when that new Twilight flick comes out they’re sure to shove it down our throats.

As far as the family film aspect goes, I don’t recall them ever saying this was a family film. If they did, it was only because it was one of those previews before something more family friendly and was just a break from the animated trailers. I  don’t know how well this is doing at the box office this weekend, but my guess si that it isn’t doing as well as she thinks it could be, given the scathing reviews its been getting.

Despite those reviews, I checked it out myself and thoroughly enjoyed it. This is what you might call a popcorn film. Lots of action, a little romance, a little comedy, and some explosions. What else do you need, seriously? By all means, yes, you should rush out and see this, just don’t pay for the 3D, it won’t be worth it.

Now I want a 3 Musketeers candy bar!

4 out of 5 stars

Red State

Posted in Horror, Independent, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on October 23, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

On the way to school, Travis (Michael Angarano) notices members of the Five Points Church, led by Abin Cooper (Michael Parks) protesting the funeral of a local gay teenager who was found murdered. During Travis’ first class, his teacher talks about how Cooper and his church had their town ridiculed for his actions and beliefs. Later, Jared (Kyle Gallner), a friend of Travis, reveals he received an invitation from a woman he met on a sex site for group sex with himself, Travis and Billy Ray (Nicholas Braun). They borrow Travis’ parent’s car and travel out into the country to meet with the woman.

Along the way, they accidentally sideswipe the vehicle of Sheriff Wynan (Stephen Root), while he was engaged in a homosexual affair in his car. Afraid, the boys drive off. Sheriff Wynan returns to the station and tells his deputy Pete (Matt L. Jones) to go and look for the vehicle. Meanwhile, the boys arrive at the trailer of the woman who sent out the invitation, Sarah Cooper (Melissa Leo). She encourages them to drink, and after being drugged by the beer, they pass out while undressing. Jared wakes up while being moved in a covered cage. He realizes he is in the sanctuary at Five Points after he identifies Cooper. Cooper begins a long, hate-filled sermon before identifying another captive, a homosexual they lured in through an internet chat room. They bind him to a cross using saran wrap and violently execute him with a revolver and drop him into a small crawl space where Travis and Billy Ray are bound together.

Cooper then begins binding Jared to the cross, but stops when he notices Pete driving up to the church. Travis and Billy Ray use a protruding bone from the corpse to cut themselves free, which is heard by Caleb (Ralph Garman). He lifts up the trap door just in time to see Billy Ray escape and begins after him. Billy Ray is not able to help Travis out of his tight saran wrap cuffs and leaves him for dead. Caleb chases Billy Ray while passing Travis into a room stocked with weapons, where the two end up shooting and killing each other. Pete hears the gunshots and calls Wynan for back-up, but is shot and killed by Mordechai (James Parks). Cooper then blackmails Wynan, telling him to stay away or he will reveal Wynan’s homosexuality to his wife. In despair, Wynan calls ATF Agent Joseph Keenan (John Goodman), who begins setting up outside of the church.

While the family mourn Caleb, Travis (who had broken free and feigned death alongside Billy Ray’s corpse) arms himself and makes a run for it, eventually making it outside where he is shot and killed by Wynan, who mistook him for a member of the congregation. Keenan tries to reason with the family but a shoot-out erupts instead after one Keenan’s men is shot in the head. In the midst of the shooting, Agent Keenan receives a call from ATF higher-ups ordering him to start a full raid of the complex to ensure that no witnesses remain of the operation, and no one can tell of their mess up. Another tactical agent named “Harry” (Kevin Alejandro) struggles with this decision and argues with Keenan in private against doing this. Keenan coldly dismisses Harry’s protests for personal reasons — rationalizing his decision based on personal gain and the reputation of the ATF — and Harry storms off in disgust. During the shoot-out, Cheyenne (Kerry Bishé) unbinds Jared, begging him to help her hide the children. Jared coldly refuses due to the fact that the church is evil and had killed both his best friends, and the arguement turns into a fight. Sarah notices them and attacks Jared. Cheyenne tries to break up the fight and accidentally shoots Sarah in the process, killing her. Jared, realizing no matter what he does he will end up dead, helps Cheyenne hide the children. They run outside to plead with Keenan to spare the children but are brutally shot and murdered by Tactical Agent Harry, who has come around to accepting Keenan’s rationales though Keenan is now visibly disturbed the reality of this outcome and Harry’s actions. The shoot-out is then suddenly interrupted when a mysterious loud trumpet ominously blast echos across the sky.

The remaining Coopers lower their weapons and run outside, rejoicing, claiming that “the rapture” has come upon them as the trumpet continue to play. A very pleased Abin Cooper calmly approaches a stunned ATF and confidently taunts them that God’s wrath is upon them. He raises his arms and stands in the face of a confused and worried Keenan in a moment of triumph, daring him to defy God as the trumpets blare. Several days later, during a briefing before high-ranking government officials, Keenan is asked what he did next and he reports that he then head-butted Cooper and took the rest of the congregation into custody. He explains that the trumpet noises were not in fact the rapture but came from a group of marijuana farmers who lived down the road and were irritated with Cooper. As a prank they rigged up an old fire truck siren to an mp3 player with loud trumpet noises, unaware of the shootout taking place over the hill. Keenan is promoted despite disobeying a direct order from his superiors at the time to kill everyone at the compound. Keenan is surprised that he is not punished for his insubordinate actions but his superiors explained that their initial decision to kill the members of the congregation was mostly personal anyways and that they are satisfied with the alternative punishment of taking away the prisoners constitutional rights to due process, locking them up without ever letting them go to trial. They also laugh at the irony that Abin, who views homosexuality as an abomination, will more than likely be raped numerous times by his fellow male inmates. Keenan laments this outcome in a story he shares about a couple of hungry brawling dogs he once knew that taught him about the darker side of human nature and the way simple beliefs can turn human into blood thirsty animals. Abin Cooper spends the remainder of his days locked in solitary confinement, where he spends the rest of his days pacing anxiously around his cell muttering like a madman — singing and preaching to himself — occasionally being told to “shut up” by other prisoners.

REVIEW:

I’ve always loved Kevin Smith movies, even the ones that aren’t a part of the ViewAskew universe such as Jersey Girl, Zack & Miri Make a Porno, and Cop Out. With this in mind, I went into Red State with no preconceived notions of anything more than it was going to be funny with maybe a little drama thrown in there.

All this was before I realized that this was going to be a different direction for a Kevin Smith movie. Now that I’ve seen this twisted, preachy flick, I’m not so sure this is the direction he should be going.

If you are familiar with the works of Kevin Smith, then you know that he tends to get a bit long-winded with his writing. That is that more often than not, there will be at least 1 character who has this long exposition that leaves you wondering “when will they shut up?!?”

This film pretty much takes that and gives it almost every character. Basically, this whole film is one big political statement. I don’t really have a problem with that, per se, but the fact that this whole thing just gets preachy about things sch as homosexuality, rapture, etc. was just a bit too much for my taste.

Also, this is supposedly a horror flick, but there wasn’t anything scary about it. Hell, it didn’t even cross into that suspense caption. The whole things seems as if it wanted to get into the Saw or Hostel type of things when they kidnapped the boys, but that never matriculated. As a matter of fact, that whole plot point seemed to be pushed aside and forgotten by the film’s midway point in favor of a new main character and a shootout.

I’ll never say that Smith isn’t a brilliant filmmaker, because he is, bt he seems to have missed the mark here. I think this may be because of his traveling out of the comfort zone. The result was a valiant effort, but only a slightly above average film. Do I recommend this? Well, you won’t feel like you’ve lost 90 minutes (which I think is the shortest Kevin Smith film to date) of your life you’ll never get back, but as I keep saying, there is just something that doesn’t quite seem to work here. ‘

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Single Room Furnished

Posted in Classics, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , on October 19, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film opens with Pop, the janitor of a downtown New York city apartment building, going into the hall to change the lights. While there, he overhears an argument coming from within one of the apartments. The argument is between a young woman named Maria and her overbearing Italian mother, who is concerned that her daughter is bringing shame to the family name by associating with another tenant in the building called Eileen, who works as a prostitute.

After storming out of the apartment, Maria encounters Pop in the hall and he begins to calm her down and the two eventually go into the building’s kitchen to talk. Maria explains that the argument was about her friendship with Eileen, before then admitting her admiration for her friend’s beauty and supposed exciting lifestyle.

Pop then begins to tell Maria a story of a young woman named Johnnie, who used to live in the building with her husband Frankie about ten years earlier. The film flashes back to Frankie and Johnnie on their fire escape. It is evident that there is an emotional distance between the two, as Frankie seems unhappy with his life, leaving Johnnie, who is pregnant with their baby, to feel isolated. The two reminisce about how they first met, before Frankie mentions an old friend whom he had recently seen. This old friend was in the Navy, and was travelling all over the world. Frankie starts detailing his fascination for Navy life and the prospects it can bring to him, before Johnnie, realizing that Frankie desires to leave her for a better life, tries to change the subject. Pop then narrates that a few weeks later, Johnnie woke one morning to find that Frankie had left her and their unborn baby. Maria asks what happened to the baby, to which Pop informs her that Johnnie had a miscarriage. He also adds that Johnnie eventually changed her name to Mae and moved on with her life, however she remained a tenant in the building.

While discussing Mae, Pop mentions another couple who live in the building, Flo and Charley, who were involved with Mae at one point. The film then flashes back and shows the beginning of this couple’s relationship. It is shown that Charley was friends with Mae, and she comes to his apartment one morning telling him that she is pregnant. Mae reveals to Charley that she plans on putting the baby up for adoption once it’s born. Charley, feeling sorry for Mae, asks her to marry him. A few days later, Flo meets Charley in a bar where he explains this situation to her. Eventually, Charley realizes that he loves Flo and that he can’t marry Mae just because he feels sorry for her. He then asks Flo to marry him. As Pop finishes narrating the story to Maria, Flo comes into the kitchen and is shown to be pregnant herself with Charley’s baby. Maria and Flo begin talking about what became of Mae. Flo explains that while she and Charley got married, Mae had her baby and put it up for adoption like she said she would. Flo also elucidates that Mae, like she had done before, changed her name, this time to Eileen. Maria then realizes that her friend Eileen is the subject of the stories she has been told.

Flo tells Maria about Eileen, who works as a prostitute at a nearby club. One night, she arrives to her apartment to find her lover Billy waiting for her. Billy is a sailor and is in love with Eileen, although she does not reciprocate this feeling. While she removes her makeup and undresses, Billy professes his desire to marry her, stating that he does not care about her past. She interjects by informing him of the many men she has been with and the things she has done with them, before then reflecting of a time when she was in love with a man whom she planned to marry, however he was killed in an accident shortly before their wedding. Billy still expresses his wish to marry her and while doing so, accidentally breaks a porcelain doll given to her by the man she once loved. Eileen then becomes hostile towards Billy, and begins mocking him, telling him she would never marry him and that she would never love him. Billy incidentally brandishes a gun and points it at Eileen, to which she tells him to go ahead and shoot. Billy, not being able to shoot her, walks out of the room and ultimately kills himself.

Eileen, at first in a state of shock, sits down at her mirror and begins re-applying her makeup, implying that she will again move on with her continuously troubled life

REVIEW:

This is the second year in a row that I’ve watched a Jayne Mansfield movie the week before I go to Slidell, La (the place where she was killed). This time however, the film is Single Room Furnished and it is the final film of one Lady Mansfield.

The premise of this picture is quite odd, especially for films of this era, but it is basically a series of stories told by an old man to a young, rebellious teen girl who doesn’t quite see eye to eye with her mother.

The intriguing part is how each of these stories leads into the other, as well as the performances by the cute couple of Flo and Charley. However, one cannot help but stare in awe of how talented Jayne Mansfield is as a dramatic actress. In almost all of her previous roles, she doesn’t show off these kind of chops, yet here she definitely distances herself from Marilyn and proves that she was a credible actress and not just a pretty face with killer curves and big, bouncy, bountiful breasts (which do not make any kind of appearance in this film, as a matter of fact).

Now, having said that, this film does suffer from being a bit too serious for my taste. I think there should have been some levity in there somewhere. Perhaps the whole Flo and Charley thing was supposed to fill that bill, but it didn’t happen. This is really the only drawback to this film, if you ask me.

In the end, Single Room Furnished delivers a great final film for Jayne Mansfield, and is actually not one of those pictures that was just made and rushed for the same of being made. If ever there was a question who is the better actress between Jayne and Marilyn, this film will definitely tip the scales toward Jayne, that’s for sure. The rest of the film isn’t too shabby, either, but let’s face it, you’re not watching this for anyone but Jayne, and that is a damn good reason to watch. I highly recommend this jewel in the Mansfield collection!

4 out of 5 stars

Dorian Gray

Posted in Drama, Horror, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , on October 19, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

When a naïve young Dorian Gray (Barnes) arrives in a train to Victorian London, he is swept into a social whirlwind by the charismatic Lord Henry Wotton (Firth), who introduces Gray to the hedonistic pleasures of the city. Lord Henry’s friend, society artist Basil Hallward (Ben Chaplin), paints a portrait of Gray to capture the full power of his youthful beauty. When the portrait is unveiled, Gray makes a flippant pledge: he would give anything to stay as he is in the picture—even his soul.

Gray meets and falls in love with young budding actress Sibyl Vane (Rachel Hurd-Wood). After a few weeks, he proposes marriage to her, but after Lord Henry tells Gray that having children is “the beginning of the end”, he takes Gray to a brothel. This breaks Sibyl’s heart as Gray leaves her; drowning herself soon after. Gray learns of this next day from her brother “Jim” (James), who tells Gray that Sybil was pregnant. Jim then tries to kill Gray before being restrained and carried off by the authorities. His initial grief disappears as Lord Henry persuades him that all events are mere experiences and without consequence, and his hedonistic lifestyle worsens, distancing him from a concerned Hallward.

Gray goes home to find the portrait of himself warped and twisted and realises that his pledge has come true; ever youthful while portrait ages, its owner’s sins showing as physical defects on the canvas. The chaos of the portrait of Gray starts, leading him to actually kill Hallward after telling him his secret with the artist intent on destroying it, dumping the body in the River Thames after hacking it to bits.

Having left London to travel for many years, Gray returns to London and during the welcome-back party the guests are awed to see that he has not aged in all those years that he has been away and he still has the charming face that made everyone fall in love. He also finds himself becoming close to Lord Henry’s daughter, Emily (Rebecca Hall), a member of the UK suffragette movement, despite Lord Henry’s distaste for such a relationship based on Gray’s lifestyle and unnatural appearance.

Although Gray appears genuinely interested in changing his ways as he spends time with Emily, matters are complicated when he is confronted by James, still seeking revenge for his sister’s death; despite Gray’s attempts to drive off his suspicions by pointing out his apparent age, James nevertheless deduces Gray’s true identity, only to be killed in an accident during the chase in the underground subways. As Gray makes arrangements to leave London with Emily, Lord Henry’s study of old photographs makes him remember the time when he teased Gray to deal with the devil for eternal youth and beauty at the cost of his soul. This prompts him to go and look in Gray’s house for the portrait which he thinks holds the mystery to Gray’s fountain of youth.

In the subsequent confrontation between the two men, Lord Henry is able to knock Gray out when he tries to kill him because of Emily’s calls downstairs and he throws a lit lamp at the portrait, causing it to catch fire. Lord Henry locks the gate of the attic, breaking a gas lamp to ensure Gray and the painting are destroyed, before his daughter sees the ruckus as she pleads with Gray for the key. Gray, after seeing her and realizing that he really loves her, turns his back as Lord Henry drags his daughter out of the house. Gray then decides to end it all; stabbing the portrait with his years catching up to him before his decayed body is consumed in the explosion.

A few months later, scarred from the explosion and after attempting to reconcile with Emily through Agatha over the phone, Lord Henry heads to his attic where he keeps now-youthful portrait of Gray.

REVIEW:

I’ll be very brief with this review. You may recall my review of  The Picture of Dorian Gray. Well, this is almost the exact same film.

There are a few differences, like the cast and whatnot. However, the original is superior, in my opinion, in terms of the creepy factor that is required to pull this story off. Both films are insanely uninteresting, but Colin Firth and Ben Barnes have great chemistry here and almost make this film watchable.

The star of the original film was the painting. In this incarnation of the tale, it is rarely seen, which is a shame because it is such a major factor. On top of that, it just didn’t really work for the way the original does. Granted, the whole black and white to color transition may have had something to do with that, but I can’t be sure.

All that aside, this isn’t a horrible flick, but like the book, it really isn’t that terribly interesting. I won’t say that you should rush out and check this out. There are many other version of it that are far superior. So, unless you’re one of those that are hell-bent on experiencing the newest incarnation of it, check one of them out.

2 out of 5 stars

Zookeeper

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on October 16, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Griffin Keyes (Kevin James) sets up a plan to propose to the love of his life, Stephanie (Leslie Bibb), but she rejects him and claims that his career as a zookeeper is what is keeping her away, therefore breaking Griffin’s heart.

Five years later, Griffin is shown to be the lead zookeeper at the Franklin Park Zoo who cares deeply for the zoo animals. That night, Griffin holds a party at the zoo for his brother Dave (Nat Faxon) who is getting married, but freaks out when he discovers that Stephanie was invited. Dave offers Griffin to come and work with him at the car dealership, explaining that it is the best way to win Stephanie. Griffin thinks that he should quit his job at the zoo and join his brother.

Later, the animals hold a meeting saying that they think Griffin is the best zookeeper at the zoo and don’t want him to leave, so they decide to find some way to help him win Stephanie’s heart. Jerome the bear (Jon Favreau) suggests that they teach Griffin their animal mating techniques, but Joe the lion (Sylvester Stallone) protests, reminding them that it’s against the animal code to talk to humans. Donald the monkey (Adam Sandler) says that Stephanie will be at the zoo tomorrow and all the animals have to do is make Griffin look like a hero in front of her.

The next day, Donald unlocks the door to the lion enclosure and lets Joe out, who confronts Stephanie and Dave’s fiancee Robin (Steffiana De La Cruz). Kate (Rosario Dawson), the zoo vet manages to get them away from Joe, but Griffin fails to jump into the lion enclosure, ruining the animals’ plan. The night afterwards, the animals break their code of silence and tell Griffin that they will teach him what to do to win Stephanie. Griffin learns their different mating rituals, but ends up humiliating himself in front of the other zookeepers and the guests.

Griffin then has a talk with Bernie (Nick Nolte), a forlorn gorilla who was moved into a deep enclosure after allegedly attacking Shane (Donnie Wahlberg), another zookeeper. Bernie explains to Griffin that Shane abuses the animals and he fell when he was abusing Bernie. He lied and said that Bernie attacked him, causing Bernie to lose his trust in anyone.

Griffin discovers that Stephanie is dating her other ex-boyfriend, a bullying alpha-male named Gale (Joe Rogan). Janet (Cher), Joe’s wife, tells Griffin that the best way to attract a female is to be seen with another female, so Griffin asks Kate to go on a date with him at Dave and Robin’s wedding. Griffin then takes Bernie to T.G.I. Fridays and the two form a friendly bond.

Griffin and Kate go on their date and have a great time together. Griffin becomes brave enough to stand up to Gale and this grabs Stephanie’s attention. After Kate tells Griffin she had a great time with him, Stephanie asks Griffin out to dinner. Griffin accepts and they both go to dinner and then go to a fashion show. Stephanie tells Griffin that his job at the zoo is holding him from the outside world, so Griffin decides to quit his job and accepts Dave’s offer, which makes Kate upset. Bernie also becomes upset and tells Griffin that he thought he could trust somebody again, but was proved wrong when Griffin quits his job. Kate decides to leave the zoo and go work at a zoo in Africa.

Griffin becomes the best employee at the car dealership, but misses working at the zoo. Stephanie proposes to Griffin, but Griffin refuses and dumps her. He then goes back to the zoo and apologizes to Bernie, who accepts Griffin’s friendship. The animals then tell Griffin that Kate is heading to the airport. With the help of Bernie, Griffin manages to catch up with Kate and confesses his love for her. Six months later, Griffin and Kate are back working at the zoo and Bernie is back living in his old enclosure where he gets a great view of the city.

REVIEW:

This is another one of those pictures that turned out to be better than anticipated. I say this because the premise and trailer are about as cheesy as one film can get…and then some, but somehow this turned out to be a pretty decent flick.

Zookeeper is a film about a head zookeeper who has no luck with the woman he loves. His luck is so bad that when he is set to propose, she decides to tell him she has never been interested and basically turns all mega-bitch on him. Fast forward a few years and he’s moved on with his life, until she comes back to town, thus causing him to become a bumbling idiot again. This leads to the animals making the decision to talk to Griffin and offer their help so that he doesn’t lose her. Little do they know this may end up being a huge mistake!

I know what you’re about to say…”talking animals…how juvenile”, right? Well, these animals are voiced by the likes of Sylvester Stallone, Nick Nolte, and Cher, and, truth be told, you wouldn’t even notice they were animals if they weren’t animals. So, if you have any preconceived notion based on some random hatred for talking animals this isn’t the film for you.

Now, with that point aside, it should be noted that the story is not half bad. As a matter of fact, it is quite sweet. The whole lovable loser falls for the wrong girl and then realizes the perfect one was right under his nose all along was a bit too predictable, though.

The secondary plot involving Bernie was a nice fork from the main plot and added a nice change of pace. Also, it helped to really show how much Griffin truly cares for the animals.

Zookeeper isn’t one of those films that is going to make anyone’s top 10 lists. As a matter of fact, if it does, I’m sure it’ll be on the top 10 worst. However, I actually liked it and think that if you give it a chance and watch it for what is, without expecting sweeping cinematography, a deep story, and whatnot, you’re sure to enjoy it as well. So, why not give it a shot?

4 out of 5 stars

The Breakfast Club

Posted in Classics, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 16, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The plot follows five students at fictional Shermer High School in the fictitious Chicago suburb of Shermer, Illinois as they report for Saturday detention on March 24, 1984. While not complete strangers, the five teenagers are each from a different clique or social group.

The five students – Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy), Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez), John Bender (Judd Nelson), Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall), and Claire Standish (Molly Ringwald) – who seem to have nothing in common at first, come together at the high school library, where they are harangued and ordered not to speak or move from their seats by the antagonistic principal, Richard Vernon (Paul Gleason). They are to remain for a period of eight hours, fifty-four minutes (from 7:06 A.M. to 4 P.M., the only indication of time being on a clock that is 20 minutes fast). He assigns a 1,000 word essay (in which each student must write about who he or she thinks they are) and then leaves them mostly unsupervised, returning only occasionally to check on them. Bender, who has a particularly negative relationship with Mr. Vernon, disregards the rules and riles the other students; mocking Brian and Andrew, and sexually harassing Claire. Allison remains oddly quiet except for the occasional random outburst.

The students pass the hours in a variety of ways. Gradually they open up to each other and reveal their inner secrets (for example, Allison is a compulsive liar, Bender comes from an abusive household and Brian and Claire are ashamed of their virginity). They also discover that they all have strained relationships with their parents and are afraid of making the same mistakes as the adults around them. However, despite these developing friendships the students are afraid that once the detention is over, they will return to their very different cliques and never speak to each other again.

At the request and consensus of the students, Brian is asked to write the essay Mr. Vernon assigned earlier (the subject of which was to be a synopsis by each student detailing “who you think you are” (sic)), which challenges Mr. Vernon and his preconceived judgments about all of them. Brian does so, but instead of writing about the assigned topic, he writes a very motivating letter that is, in essence, the main point of the story: that each of them (or any person, in that matter) is a bit of everything and not the whole of what people see in them. He signs the essay as “The Breakfast Club” and leaves it at the table for Mr. Vernon to read when they leave. There are two versions of this letter, one read at the beginning and one at the end, which are slightly different; illustrating the change in the students’ judgments of one another and their realization that they truly have things in common.

The beginning letter is as follows:

Brian Johnson (although that is unknown at this point): Saturday, March 24, 1984. Shermer High School, Shermer, Illinois. 60062.
Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was that we did wrong…and what we did was wrong, but we think you’re crazy to make us write this essay telling you who we think we are. What do you care? You see us as you want to see us… in the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal. Correct? That’s the way we saw each other at seven o’clock this morning. We were brainwashed.
The end letter is as follows:

Brian Johnson: Dear Mr. Vernon, we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong…but we think you’re crazy to make us write an essay telling you who (sic) we think we are. You see us as you want to see us… In the simplest terms and the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a brain…
Andrew Clark: …and an athlete…
Allison Reynolds: …and a basket case…
Claire Standish: …a princess…
John Bender: …and a criminal…
Brian Johnson: Does that answer your question?
Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club.
The film ends with the students walking down the hallway to leave the school. Outside, Allison and Andrew are shown kissing, as well as Claire and Bender. Claire gives Bender her earring, which he puts on after she leaves. Bender pumps his fist into the air, and the scene freezes

REVIEW:

Those of s that grew up in the 80s are more than aware of The Breakfast Club as well as the other masterpieces of the late John Hughes. As many movies from the 80s and I’ve seen and/or reviewed, can you believe this is my first time seeing this one?

The premise behind the film is that 5 kids each do something that lands them in Saturday detention, thanks to this hateful principal. While confined in the library they get to know and discover each other.

The coming-of-age part of this film seemed a bit cheesy for my taste, but I can see how some folks would eat that stuff up.

I really enjoyed how they bonded in such a short ammont of time, though. Of course, in today’s society, this wold never happen because everyone is afraid of everyone else and if you even look at a person funny, you can get sued!

I do have to classify this film as a bit overrated, though. Now, before you start jumping down my throat, hear me out. This film is nowhere near as overrated as say, Scarface, but it is up there. I say this based on the acting.

You look at this cast today and realize that they all went on to become fairly decent actors, especially Emilio Estevez, but back then, they were nothing more than fresh faces who were just reading lines. Somehow people really like this and gush over this film, but I don’t really see the reason why. It vexes me, that’s for sure.

All in all The Breakfast Club is not a bad film. I actually liked it. There is that 80s nostalgia that we all love, and how can you not sing along to Simple Minds’ “Dont You (Forget About Me)” when it kicks in. Should you see this? Why yes, but be wary that it isn’t the most interesting film. I liken this to the kind of comedy and dram you get from a Kevin Smith film, only no dick and fart jokes. So, if this floats your boat, check it out!

3 1/2 out of 5 stars