Archive for December, 2011

A Good Old Fashioned Orgy

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 31, 2011 by Mystery Man


Eric (Jason Sudeikis) is a perpetual adolescent who lives to party, holding lavish theme-events with his friends using his father’s large house in the Hamptons. But when his father (Don Johnson) announces he is selling the house, Eric decides to have one last big event at the house; an orgy


This film is called A Good Old Fashioned Orgy, so can we really expect much from it? That being said, this was horrible!

First off, if you’ve seen the American Pie movies, specifically American Pie 2, then you get the idea of what is going on here in some sense. The only difference really, is that instead of a group fresh off their first year in college, they are in their mid 30s or so.

Second, one would imagine we’d see a lot more skin and sex, but that just didn’t happen. I won’t say I was disappointed, but I did sort of expect it.

Lastly, this story was horrible. As I aid, it was basically just an older version of American Pie 2, with some changes here and there to make it more “adult”.

These characters have no redeeming qualities and the actors playing them aren’t exactly known for being American’s sweethearts. The worst culprit had to have been Lake Bell. Her character was some sort of psychiatrist and was just plain annoying throughout 90% of the film.

If there was a bright spot, it had to have been the fresh faces Leslie Bibb and the seemingly innocent Lindsay Sloane, whose character brought to mind her days on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.

I think it goes without saying that I am not a fan of this film and feel that I wasted 90 minutes or so of my life watching this tonight. No, I do not recommend this film to anyone, not even my worst enemy. It just isn’t worth it. Yes, there are some funny moments, but they don’t make up for the utter horridness of this picture as a whole. Avoid it at all costs!!!

2 out of 5 stars

The Tempest

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 31, 2011 by Mystery Man


Prospera, the duchess of Milan, is usurped by her brother Antonio and is cast off on a raft to die with her four-year-old daughter Miranda. They survive, finding themselves stranded on an island where the beast Caliban is the sole inhabitant. Prospera enslaves Caliban and claims the island. After 12 years, Alonso, the king of Naples, sails back to his kingdom from the marriage of his daughter to the prince of Tunisia, accompanied by his son Ferdinand and Antonio. Prospera, apprehending her chance for revenge, causes a tempest, wrecking the ship and stranding those on board on her island.


Years ago, someone decided to do a somewhat futuristic version of Romeo & Juliet starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The interesting thing about it was that they actually used Shakespeare’s actual dialogue. Given the scope and tone of that picture, it made for quite the confusing picture, but still, it was interesting to see the two worlds, if you will, come together.

Along comes along The Tempest, a film that also uses Shakespeare’s words. This film, though, is not set in any weird future, but rather the original setting of the play. That being  said, there are some changes, such as the character of Prospero now being a female role and name changed to Prospera.

I don’t really know much about this play, but I love Helen Mirren, so if you’re asking why in tarnation I even bothered with this, that is why.

First thing that needs to be mentioned are the special effects and makeup. When you’re dealing with a woman who can control the weather as well as her spirit slave, or whatever he was, then you have to make sure they don’t look homemade, if you will.

I can’t comment on the plot and story because, quite frankly, this is taken directly from Shakespeare’s work, so to do so would belittle the great Bard’s work. That isn’t to say that everything he wrote was a masterpiece, of course.

Now, about the cast. Helen Mirren is infallible as Prospera, and brigs a refined civility to this film that we all know her for.

In a surprise appearance, Russell Brand is in a drama. Of course, he’s playing a court jester, so it really isn’t a stretch for him, and of curse he does his schtick. Basically, if you love or hate him in anything else he’s done, then that is exactly how you’ll feel about him here.

Alfred Molina, as great as he is, is…well, I dunno. On one hand, I feel that he was wasted in this role, but on the other hand, I don’t see anyone else pulling it off. Molina is one of those few actors alive today who cam seamlessly star in one picture, and then be a supporting actor the next and be just as great in both.

Djimon Hounsou does pretty good as Caliban, but I wasn’t really impressed.

Yes, I have very few words about The Tempest, but there really isn’t much to say. That being said, something about this film seemed off. At times, it seems like an acid trip. It is no wonder this director is also the woman who made that Spider-Man musical a flop. She has vision, yes, but not the skill to pull it off. Furthermore, the pacing of the film sort of took me out of it. Now, that may be a part of my 21st century brain, as opposed to one that was around during the Bard’s time. So, do I recommend this? Yes, a little, but I wouldn’t necessarily rush out to see it.

3 out of 5 stars

The Blues Brothers

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 28, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

“Joliet” Jake Blues (John Belushi) is released from prison after serving three years for armed robbery. Jake is irritated at being picked up by his brother Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) in the Bluesmobile, a battered former Mount Prospect police car, instead of the Cadillac the brothers used to own. The brothers visit their childhood home, a Roman Catholic orphanage, and learn that it will be closed unless $5,000 in property taxes is collected. The brothers visit an evangelical church service where Jake has an epiphany: they can legitimately raise the funds by re-forming their rhythm and blues band.

Elwood runs a red light, and is pulled over by two Illinois State Police troopers who learn of his suspended license. When they attempt to arrest him, he speeds off, escaping through the Dixie Square Mall. As the brothers arrive at the flophouse where Elwood lives, a mystery woman (Carrie Fisher) launches a bazooka attack that leaves them unharmed. The next morning, she detonates a bomb that demolishes the building, which fails to injure the brothers, but saves them from being arrested. Jake and Elwood begin tracking down members of the band. Trombonist Tom “Bones” Malone and the rhythm section, (Willie “Too Big” Hall, Steve “The Colonel” Cropper, Donald “Duck” Dunn, and Murphy “Murph” Dunne), are playing in a nearly empty Holiday Inn lounge, and are easily persuaded to rejoin. Trumpeter “Mr. Fabulous”, now Maître d’ at the fancy Chez Paul restaurant, is harder to sway, but Jake and Elwood convince him by engaging in rude behavior and promising to continue until he agrees. En route to meet saxophonist “Blue Lou” Marini and guitarist Matt “Guitar” Murphy, the brothers drive through a rally of “Illinois Nazis”, adding another enemy to the brothers’ growing list. Marini and Murphy are at the soul food restaurant on Maxwell Street which Murphy owns with his wife (Aretha Franklin). Against her advice, the two musicians leave and rejoin the band. The reunited group get instruments and equipment from Ray’s Music Exchange (with Ray Charles accepting an IOU).

Jake is unable to book a gig in advance, but the band stumbles into a gig at Bob’s Country Bunker, a country bar. After a rocky start, the band wins over the bottle-tossing crowd. At the end of the evening, however, not only is their bar tab greater than the pay for the gig, but the brothers infuriate the band that was actually meant to play, the Good Ol’ Boys. The Blues Brothers blackmail their old booking agent into securing a gig for them—a performance at the Palace Hotel Ballroom, located 106 miles (171 km) north of Chicago. After being driven all over the area promoting the concert, the Bluesmobile runs out of gas, making Jake and Elwood late for the concert. The ballroom is packed, and the concert-goers are joined by the Good Ol’ Boys and scores of police officers. Jake and Elwood sneak into the venue and perform two songs. A record company executive offers them a cash advance on a recording contract, more than enough to pay off the orphanage’s taxes and Ray’s IOU, and tells the brothers how to slip out unnoticed.

As the brothers escape via a service tunnel, they are confronted by the mystery woman, whereupon it is revealed she is Jake’s ex-fiancée. She fires an M16 rifle at them, but Jake charms her before dropping her, allowing the two brothers to escape to the Bluesmobile. They head back to Chicago with dozens of state/local police and the Good Ol’ Boys in pursuit. Jake and Elwood eventually elude them all, leaving piled-up police cars in their wake. After a gravity-defying escape from the Illinois Nazis, Jake and Elwood arrive at the Richard J. Daley Center, where the Bluesmobile literally falls to pieces. They rush inside the adjacent Chicago City Hall building, soon followed by hundreds of police, state troopers, SWAT teams, firefighters, Illinois National Guardsmen, and the Military Police. Finding the office of the Cook County Assessor, the brothers pay the tax bill. Just as their receipt is stamped, they are arrested by a large crowd of armed law officers. Jake, Elwood, and the rest of the band are sent to prison where they play “Jailhouse Rock” for fellow inmates


I was listening to some Blues Brothers music the other day and it came to me the fact that while I had reviewed Blues Brothers 2000, I had yet to even watch the original film. Well, this evening, I rectified that situation and finally watched The Blues Brothers. The question is, was it worth the wait?

First thing first, I really think I should have watched this first, because it is nearly the exact same film as Blues Brothers 2000, with some changes here and there, obviously. I say this because the plots are the mostly the same, the characters are the same, even some of the music is the same. All this time, I thought it was a sequel, but turns out it has been more of a remake. Maybe I should go back and re-review it?

So, allow me to forget the fact that the other even exists for the purpose of this review, if you will. The plot involving these two brothers who are apparent convicts that are on “a mission from God” to save the orphanage where they grew up. After an experience in a church they decide to get the band back together and earn the money that way. This leads to many high-speed chases, action packed car pile-up, encounters with Neo-Nazis, etc.

If you know anything about the Blues Brothers, then you know that they are known for their look and their music. As a fan of this style of music, I have to say that this film delivers on all cylinders. Acts like Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Cab Calloway, and even Chaka Khan appear and bring the house down.

Aside from the action and great music, there is also some great comedic moments. After all, remember that these guys started out as a skit on Saturday Night Live, so how can you expect some sort of serious film? Yes, I’ve heard some people complain about that. *SIGH* When will people learn that it isn’t a crime to have a funny film? Geesh!

If I do have an issue with the film, it is that we know these guys are being chased and whatnot, but the very people who are chasing them seem to disappear for half of the film. It kind if left a big hole in the plot, if you think about it.

Finale verdict on The Blues Brothers? Well, if you were to ask me if it was worth the wait, I have to say an enthusiastic yes. I thoroughly enjoyed this film from start to finish. There are some things that could have been better, but it is that how it is with any film. Should you give this a shot? I have to say yes, and without hesitation. This is a must-see before you die film!

5 out of 5 stars

Sweet November

Posted in Chick Flicks, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on December 28, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Nelson Moss (Keanu Reeves) unexpectedly meets Sara Deever (Charlize Theron), a woman very different from anyone else he has ever met. His arrogance and ignorance leads to her failing her DMV test. She beguiles him and continually asks him to spend a month with her on the promise that she will change his life for the better. That night, she sleeps with him, and the next day Chaz, (a close friend of Sara’s) arrives and is able to identify Nelson as Sara’s “November”.

Throughout November, the two experience happy times together and fall in love. During the month and their adventures, Nelson examines his life and past and befriends a fatherless child called Abner (Liam Aiken). Eventually, he realizes he is in love with Sara and asks her to marry him. It is revealed that Sara has terminal cancer, Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Because she cannot bear to have Nelson experience her death, she asks him to leave. Sara tells Chaz that Nelson proposed to her. Chaz says that it wasn’t the first time that a man had proposed, implying Sara has had numerous “months”. Sara confirms this but claims it was the first time she had wanted to say yes. She decides she will not continue the relationship to protect Nelson from getting hurt. Nelson complies, but then stages a surprise return during Thanksgiving, giving her gifts that remind her of their happy times.

They stay together for one more day; he posts November calendars all over her apartment walls, saying it can always be November for them. They make love, but the next morning, Nelson finds Sara is dressed. She asks him to leave, with all his calendars taken down. Nelson becomes confused and heartbroken. Sara asks Nelson to let her go so that he will always have happy memories of her and explains that this is how she needs to be remembered. She will return home to her family (who she had been avoiding) and face her last days. The movie ends with Sara blindfolding Nelson (a revisitation of an activity they had done earlier in the month), giving him one last kiss, and then walking away. Nelson then takes off the blindfold in tears, and is later shown at a park they went to on one of their dates


Now that I  think about it, maybe I should’ve done this last month, since it is called Sweet November, and here it is the end of December. Oh well, it still wasn’t my choice to watch this, but sometimes a man has to appease the little woman, right fellas?

So, if you’ve ever seen any chick flick, then you are more than aware that these things will feature some sort of depressing plot point, usually some kind terminal illness or some kind of odd love life problem. This film goes more along the line of the former, but the latter is there in a disjointed sort of way that manifests itself in the film’s final, tumultuous act.

Let me start by mentioning the acting here. It is pathetic. First off, we’ve come to expect wooden performances from Keanu Reeves, that’s just who he is, so we accept it.

However, Charlize Theron is a great actress, of that there is no question, but here she just seems as if she’s trying to be Dharma from Dharma & Greg. If that was the was, then she accomplished it, however, it didn’t really work for me. Fact is, she got a bit annoying, especially at the beginning.

As horrible as those two were, I was encouraged by the outstanding performance of two guys who are known as villains, Jason Isaacs and Michael Rosenbaum. The biggest surprise comes when we get to see these guys in drag. Let me just say that it will be a true shock for those that see these two.

The story falls flat for me, as well. This thing with the 30 days to “fix” the guy who all of a sudden is supposed to put his life on hold and move in with this random chick seems a bit odd. Top top that off, there is this whole thing where his life seems to all of a sudden spin out of control the next day, just seems a bit to coincidental for my taste. Then, of course, there is the sudden revelation that she has cancer. To me, that just seemed sort of forced in there to make this make sense…unsuccessfully, I might add.

Final verdict of Sweet November? Well, I just learned that this is a remake of a film from yesteryear. That officially makes two unwatchable remakes (and I already hate and despise the things) that Keanu Reeves has been in, the other being The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008). This film has nothing that any guy is going to be interested in, save for Lauren Graham in her lingerie in the film’s opening scene. Everything else is geared exclusively for the female audience, and that is ok. Let the girls have this movie, just be sure there is a box of Kleenex handy come the end. Do I recommend this film? Yes, but only if you’re of the female species.

3 out of 5 stars

Nanny McPhee

Posted in Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on December 24, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 19th century England, widowed Cedric Brown (Colin Firth) has seven children: 11-year old Simon (Thomas Sangster), 10-year old Tora (Eliza Bennett), 9-year old Lily (Jennifer Rae Daykin), 8-year old Eric (Raphaël Coleman), 7-year old Sebastian (Samuel Honywood), 5-year old Christianna (Holly Gibbs)and 1-year old baby Agatha (Hebe and Zinnia Barnes). He loves his children very much, but spends little time with them, unable to handle raising them all on his own, after their mother died. The children have had a series of seventeen nannies, whom they systematically drive out; it is a point of pride for them to get rid of each nanny as fast as possible. They also terrorize the cook, Mrs. Blatherwick (Imelda Staunton) but are cared for and loved by Evangeline (Kelly Macdonald) the young scullery maid.

Cedric attempts to hire another nanny from the agency that sent the past seventeen nannies, but the agency refuses him, as the children have sent the past nannies away, terrorized. Desperate to find another nanny, Cedric heeds the advice of a mysterious voice from the house, which says, “the person you need is Nanny McPhee.” After a series of mysterious events, an unusual and hideous woman named Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson) arrives at Brown home, introducing herself as a “government nanny.” By using magic to force the children to destroy the kitchen (almost boiling Aggie in the process), she teaches them to go to bed when they’re told. In similar fashions, with discipline and magic, she transforms the family’s lives. In the process, she herself transforms from ugly to beautiful. The children, led by Simon, attempt to play their tricks on her, but gradually start to respect her and ask her for advice. They change into responsible people, helping their hapless father in solving the family problems, and making Nanny McPhee less and less needed.

The family is financially supported by the late Mrs. Brown’s Aunt, the fearsome Lady Adelaide Stitch (Angela Lansbury). Though she is acting in concern for the well-being of her family, Lady Adelaide is the source of major conflicts in the Browns’ lives. In conjunction with her support for the family, Lady Adelaide demands custody over one of the children in order to ensure their continued education and proper upbringing in society. She initially chooses Christianna to go with her, but as the children – and Cedric himself – loathe the idea of parting with one of the siblings, Simon offers up Evangeline in Chrissy’s place. Adelaide agrees, assuming that she is one of the daughters, and adopts Evangeline as her own. Both Evangeline’s desire to be properly educated, as well as Adelaide’s latest contractual stipulation, are satisfied by the act of trickery.

Lady Adelaide also demands that Cedric remarry within the month, threatening to cut off the family’s allowance and have him sent to debtors’ prison if he fails to do so. Desperate to keep his family together and prevent losing his house, Cedric turns to the vulgar and thrice-widowed Mrs. Selma Quickly (Celia Imrie), a local woman with garish taste in clothing. Based on the image of stepmothers in fairy tales, the children assume that stepmothers are all cruel, and attempt to sabotage a visit from Mrs. Quickly. However, their tricks backfire and Mrs. Quickly initially assumes that Mr. Brown is keener on her than he actually is. During the tea party, Mr. Brown’s endeavors to protect Mrs. Quickly from his children result in him throwing himself on top of her, pulling her to the floor and burying his face in her cleavage. Nevertheless, Mrs. Quickly – ignorant of the children’s pranks – is happy with all this provided that she gets a proposal. However, when his proposal is ruined by more pranks, she leaves angrily and refuses to see him again. After the truth of their father’s situation is explained to the children, they agree to the marriage, and appease Mrs. Quickly by confessing they were to blame for the disturbance of her visit, and lure her with promises of Aunt Adelaide’s wealth.

On the day of the wedding, the children discover that Mrs. Quickly is as conniving and cruel as they had feared when she breaks Aggie’s rattle – a memento of their late mother. When everyone is gathered for the wedding, Simon despairs that there is nothing more they can do to stop this marriage. Nanny McPhee advises Simon the best thing is to do “exactly as you are told.” Baby Aggie begins repeating “beehive” to Simon, and realizes the baby is telling him what to do. Following Nanny McPhee’s advice to do as he is told, he and the other children disrupt the ceremony by pretending a swarm of bees has been attracted to Quickly’s flowered hat. Things rapidly descend into chaos; the priest is deathly allergic to bees and panics, and this soon leads to a riotous food fight. Cedric realizes that both he and his children truly dislike his wife-to-be, and joins in the disruption of the ceremony. Mrs. Quickly asks Cedric point blank if he can actually see any bees, and he says that yes, he can, then swats an imaginary bee from her hat so forcefully, she falls to the ground. Angered, Mrs. Quickly puts an end to the wedding and storms off.

Just as it seems that Adelaide’s marriage deadline has passed without result, Simon realizes that his father could still marry Evangeline, to whom he has demonstrated something of an attraction, and vice versa. Although both Cedric and Evangeline attempt to deny it, due to the inevitable breaking of class boundaries such a marriage would cause, they finally admit their love for each other.

Nanny McPhee taps her magic staff one last time, and provides a perfect backdrop for Cedric’s marriage to Evangeline by creating a beautiful snowstorm, covering over the ruined mess of the ceremony site, and fulfilling Mrs. Blatherwick’s declarations that “it’ll be snowing in August before this family is straightened out!” She also magically transforms Evangeline’s dress into a glorious, white wedding gown, seemingly woven from the falling snowflakes. Aunt Adelaide’s demand is satisfied, and all of the family’s problems are solved. Even Aggie’s rattle is restored.

Now that the children have learned all of Nanny McPhee’s lessons, she has been transformed from the heavyset hag they first met into an attractive young woman. As the wedding ceremony commences, Nanny McPhee is seen in the final frames, her silhouette walking into the horizon, with her voiceover reiterating her earlier declaration that “When you need me, but do not want me, then I must stay. When you want me, but no longer need me, then I have to go.”


So, I mentioned in my Mary Poppins review that there are similarities between it and this film, Nanny McPhee. Some have even gone so far as to say the two women are related. I don’t think there is any truth to that speculation, but the similarities are there and both film are pretty darn good.

Let’s get one thing straight, this Nanny is to going to be singing about spoonfuls of sugar or jumping into sidewalk paintings, but she does care for the kids, who are also unruly, maybe more along the lines of the Von Trapp kids from The Sound of Music, rather than Jane and Michael.

So, there is this one thing that has bothered me ever since I found out that this was based on a book series, and that is that the books were called Nurse Matilda, or something like that, and here the movies are called Nanny McPhee. I have to wonder what caused them to change the title and perhaps even the character’s name.

The story seems to be a bit unoriginal and takes quite a few elements straight from the film it is constantly compared to, but there is a darker tone. While the story has a darker tone, the film itself is loaded with bright colors, especially in the wedding scene. The whole thing reminded me of Easter…lol

When they introduce Angela Lansbury’s character it is something new to the table, and an impressive change of character from what we normally see from her, because we are so used  her being the calm, matronly, goodie-two shoes type. That being said, I wonder what it would have been like to cast Julie Andrews in this role.

Emma Thompson is unrecognizable at first as Nanny McPhee, but as the film progresses she revert to her normal, more attractive self. The reasons for this are never explained, but I’m sure they are in the books. I think it has something to do with the kids learning their lessons.

Final verdict on Nanny McPhee? Well, in this day and age every one is so jaded and obsessed with thing being dark and realistic that I’m sure there are those that will find Mary Poppins a bit too much to handle. For those people, this film is the perfect alternative. On its own, though, it isn’t the perfect picture, but it is really good. If you’re in the mood for a good nanny picture, give it a shot.

4 out of 5 stars

Thir13en Ghosts

Posted in Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 24, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Ghost hunter Cyrus Kriticos (F. Murray Abraham) and his psychic assistant Dennis Rafkin (Matthew Lillard) lead a team on a mission to capture a spirit, called the Juggernaut, in a junkyard. Several of the men are killed during the ensuing fight, including Cyrus himself. However, the team is able to catch the ghost. Cyrus’ nephew, Arthur Kriticos (Tony Shalhoub), a widower, is informed by Cyrus’ estate lawyer Ben Moss (JR Bourne) that he has inherited a mansion. Financially insecure, Arthur decides to move into the mansion with his two children, Kathy (Shannon Elizabeth) and Bobby (Alec Roberts) and their nanny Maggie (Rah Digga).

Dennis Rafkin, disguised as a power company employee, meets the family and Moss as they tour the mansion. The residence is made almost entirely of glass walls and floor with Latin phrases etched on them. After going in the basement and seeing the several ghosts he helped capture, Dennis frantically runs upstairs to warn Arthur that there are 12 violent ghosts imprisoned in the house, held captive. Moss slips away to collect his payment, but upon taking the briefcase he activates a mechanism that seals the entrance to the home and begins to release the ghosts one-by-one. The Angry Princess is the first ghost to be released, and advances menacingly towards Moss for remarking “nice tits,” at her earlier. Moss attempts to apologize to her, but is sliced in half when two doors close through him.

Bobby disappears after getting separated from Maggie and is lured into the basement by the Bound Woman, recently released along with several other ghosts. Bobby then encounters two other ghosts, the Torso and the Withered Lover, who is revealed to be the ghost of his dead mother, Jean. He then sees his supposedly dead great-uncle, Cyrus, behind him and is attacked by him.

When the others split up and search the basement for Bobby, despite Dennis’s protests, the psychic manages to use a pair of spectral viewers – which allow the wearer to see into the supernatural realm – to convince Maggie of the ghosts by using them to show her the Hammer in its cell. Shortly after, Dennis discovers that the Jackal has been released, meaning they are in grave danger.

Meanwhile, Kathy puts on a pair of the spectral viewers she took from the bathroom earlier, and sees the Jackal, who then proceeds to viciously attack her and (possibly) attempt to rape her. However, she and Arthur are saved from the Jackal by Kalina Oretzia (Embeth Davidtz), a spirit liberator, who has snuck into the house and is attempting to free the ghosts. Kalina then uses Kathy’s (who has mysteriously disappeared) spectral viewers to show the Jackal to Arthur, and explains that the home is actually a machine built by Cyrus, based on a design in a 15th century book written by the astrologer Basileus while he was possessed by the Devil. The machine is powered by the spirits of 12 ghosts based on the “Black Zodiac,” and opens the “Ocularis Infernum” (Eye of Hell) that allows its user to see everything in the past, present and future, thus making the user the most powerful being on earth. Dennis also reveals that Jean is the Withered Lover, enraging Arthur. Kalina goes on to tell Arthur that his children are in grave danger, and the only way to ensure their successful return is for Arthur to sacrifice himself to become the 13th ghost – a failsafe ghost created out of an act of pure love, which would destroy the machine.

While Maggie and Kalina get to the library, Arthur and Dennis attempt to find the kids, using a glass wall as a shield against the ghosts’ attacks. However, when the Juggernaut is released as the final ghost and comes after the two men along with the Hammer, Dennis decides to sacrifice himself and traps Arthur behind the glass wall in a corner. Dennis, however, is no match for the two ghosts and Arthur watches helplessly as the Juggernaut brutally finishes the psychic off, bending him in half on a nearby pole.

Meanwhile, Cyrus is revealed to be alive, having faked his death in order to lure Arthur to the house and Kalina is his secret partner and lover. Cyrus has orchestrated the abduction of Kathy and Bobby so that Arthur will become the 13th ghost, which will not stop the machine, as Kalina had claimed, but trigger its activation. Kalina says the only flaw in the plan is that Arthur will only sacrifice himself if his children are in jeopardy. When she balks at Cyrus’s order to put the children in jeopardy, Cyrus traps her in a small chamber, crushing her to death between two walls. Cyrus plays a tape-recorded Latin chant to summon the ghosts to activate the machine.

Arthur arrives at the main hall of the house and witnesses all 12 ghosts standing around a rotating crest of metal rings, his children at the center. Arthur and Cyrus have a violent confrontation and Cyrus overpowers Arthur. Maggie begins to disrupt the machine’s controls, breaking the chant and freeing the ghosts of their trance. The ghosts grab Cyrus and hurl him into the rings, slicing him to pieces. Dennis’ ghost then appears, telling Arthur that it is not over and to go to his kids. Waiting for a break in the rings, Arthur safely leaps to his children. The machine continues to malfunction and the walls of the house shatter, freeing the ghosts. The ghost of Arthur’s wife, Jean, appears before the family and tells them that she loves them before vanishing. Maggie is then seen wandering through the destroyed house, screaming that she quits.


Horror really isn’t my genre, but every now and then one comes along that intrigues me. A film that deals with collecting ghosts, some weird contraption, and this giant glass house that holds them all is sure to strike my fancy, and that is exactly what Thir13en Ghostsaccomplishes.

First off, it should be known that there is a death in here that should go down as one of the greatest death this side of the Saw franchise. I won’t spoil anything about, but just know that you’ll be careful the next time you encounter sliding doors.

The creepy factor is a bit on the high side with this film. Not because of anything that is necessarily going to make you lock your doors and sleep with the lights on, but rather because of how these ghosts came to be and then the fact that they were capture and are out for revenge ups the ante, if you will.

I am highly impressed with the design of house and especially the Ocularis Infernum. It takes some real thought to not only come up with something like that, but to also build the thing. Kudos to the set and prop people.

Back to the ghosts, for some reason, I was thinking these were going to be seen through apparitions along the lines of Casper or the ghost of Jakob Marley, but instead, they were fully realised people, even if they could only be seen with those special goggles.

There are 12 of them, with a plot point to describe the 13th one, and for the most part the film does a good job of giving them all decent screentime and a letting us know about them, but they did seem to spend a hefty amount of time on the Jackal, Juggernaut(not the one from the X-Men movies), and the Hammer. Of course, these are the big, sadistic ones, though, so that might have had something to do with it.

Horror films are not known for their dialogue or performances. This is no exception, but I can say that this is probably the strongest performance I’ve seen Matthew Lillard pull off. Well, except when he was Shaggy, but that was more of him capturing the full Shagy-ness, rather than his being a master thespian, for lack of a better term.

I was a little disappointed in Ton Shaloub. I think I just expected more from him. Yes, he was playing the straight man, but he just seemed to be very wooden. Granted, his wife was burned to death and he just hasn’t gotten over that, bu still, he could have brought something more than just reading the lines.

Thir13en Ghosts is really not a bad film, but it is also not a great one. I have not seen the original film, but something tells me, it is far superior. This one may be better in terms of special effects and gore, but the original, I would wager soars in terms of storytelling and acting. Those points aside, I can recommend this. It won’t be the end of the world if you decide to check it out.

4 out of 5 stars

Road to Perdition

Posted in Action/Adventure, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on December 24, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Michael Sullivan, Sr. (Tom Hanks) is a mob enforcer for John Rooney (Paul Newman), an Irish mob boss in Rock Island, Illinois during the Great Depression and Al Capone era. Rooney raised Sullivan, an orphan, and loves him as a son; more so, in fact, than his biological son, the violent, unstable Connor (Daniel Craig). Sullivan and Connor go to a warehouse for a meeting with Finn McGovern, a disgruntled employee. Twelve-year-old Michael Sullivan, Jr. (Tyler Hoechlin) hides in his father’s car and witnesses Connor kill McGovern in a fit of rage. Sullivan swears his son to secrecy, but Connor decides to hush these witnesses forever. He murders Sullivan’s wife Annie and the couple’s younger son Peter, mistakenly thinking he has murdered young Michael. Sullivan and his remaining son flee to Chicago.

Sullivan requests a job with Capone’s mob. He asks permission of crime kingpin Frank Nitti (Stanley Tucci) to seek revenge on Connor, who has been sent into hiding. The offer is rejected. Rooney is aware of the meeting and allows Nitti to dispatch assassin Harlen Maguire (Jude Law) to kill Sullivan. Maguire, a crime-scene photographer who likes to photograph his victims, tracks Sullivan and son to a roadside diner but misses a chance to make the hit. Knowing now that Nitti has sided against him, Sullivan begins robbing the banks that hold the Capone and Rooney syndicate’s laundered money, hoping to trade it for Connor. Michael Jr. drives the getaway car at the holdups.

Maguire sets a trap with the aid of Rooney’s accountant, Alexander Rance. On the day Sullivan comes to Rance’s hotel room, Rance stalls him until Maguire can arrive. Rance is killed in the crossfire of the ensuing gunfight. Maguire is injured, his face peppered with fragments of glass, though he manages to shoot the escaping Sullivan in the arm.

Michael drives his father to a farm where a childless elderly couple helps Sullivan to recover. During his recuperation, Sullivan discovers (in ledgers taken from Rance) that Connor has been embezzling from his father for years, using the names of dead gang members to hide his activities. As the Sullivans depart, they give the couple much of the remaining money from the bank robberies.

Rooney is surprised by Sullivan while attending Mass. He acknowledges that he already knows about the embezzlement and that this must end with Connor’s death, but still refuses to be the one to give up his son. That night, cloaked by darkness and a driving rain, Sullivan dispatches Rooney’s entire entourage with his Thompson submachine gun and then walks up to Rooney himself, who says “I’m glad it’s you”. With tears in his eyes, Sullivan pulls the trigger. Seeing no further reason to protect Connor now that Rooney is dead, Nitti reveals his location to Sullivan, making him promise that this will be the end. Sullivan goes to the hotel where Connor is hiding and kills him to complete his full circle of revenge.

Sullivan decides to drive Michael Jr. to a relative’s beach house in Perdition, a town on the shore of Lake Michigan. Here he is ambushed and shot by a disfigured Maguire, who has survived the hotel shootout. Michael Jr. shows up and points a gun at Maguire, but cannot bring himself to fire. The standoff ends when Sullivan draws a hidden gun and kills Maguire before dying in his son’s arms. Mourning his father’s death, Michael Jr. finds his way back to the elderly farm couple that looked after them. In Michael Jr.’s closing voice-over, he states that he now realizes that his father’s only fear was that his son would grow up to be like him, and that, when asked if his father was a good man, he simply says, “He was my father.”


A bit of a departure from my normal faire, Road to Perdition actually left me feeling as if I had watched something that everyone should. No, you won’t get a warm, fuzzy feeling after watching. This is a gangster movie after all, how many times do you get that feeling after seeing someone get gunned down with a tommy gun? However, this is a film by the same guy that brought us American Beauty. The same…what is the word I’m looking for?….let’s say technique…that worked for that flick do the same for this one.

First off, let me say that this is a dark film. You kind of get that feeling from some of the imagery and music when the film starts, but when the wife and son are shot down, well, then you know this is going to be some dark, heavy stuff. That being said, there are some moments that lighten things up, such as when the living son is learning to drive. Some people will say that this took away from the flick, but for me, it was a welcome break and reminded us that the kid is innocent in all of this and the father wants to keep him that way.

The entire story has greatness written all over it. There are no holes in this plot, except for maybe where Al Capone was. I read, though, that he was left out so as to be a presence rather than a figure. Now that I think about it, that might have worked better for The Untouchables, as well, up until they finally get hom on the charges. I’m just saying.

Remember when Tom Hanks was a comedic actor? Yeah, I barely remember it, too. This film shows Hanks flexing his true acting chops as well as some true paternal instincts on screen.

Paul Newman is…well, he’s Paul Newman. Do I really need to say anything?

Jude Law, though, is the real show stealer. Best known as the good-looking type, in this picture he is slumming it as a twisted crime scene photographer turned assassin for hire. He truly creates another persona for himself by thoroughly immersing himself in this character.

Tyler Hoechlin, who I know best for him time on 7th Heaven, really shines. I wonder why he didn’t parlay this into a bigger career.

Daniel Craig and Stanley Tucci also appear, but in limited, but important roles. Keep an eye out for them.

The best scene in this film has to be the one that has the smallest amount of dialogue, not that this is a very talkative film, and that is where Sullivan takes out everyone with a tommy gun. Think about the scene near the climax of Dick Tracy, only without the colors, sound, and make it more violent. Same basic principle, but it is most definitely a poignant scene in this film.

If you keep up with this blog, then you are more than aware that i love my sci-fi, comedy, and western films, but don’t discount my love for gangster flicks. Now, Road to Perdition isn’t necessarily a gangster picture, but it does have all the elements. It focuses more on the family aspect of Sullivan, rather than the business, and it works. This is surely a film to be seen before you die!

5 out of 5 stars

The Thing

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Horror, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , on December 21, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

An American Antarctic research team stationed at the United States National Science Institute Station 4 or Outpost 31 is alerted by gunfire and explosions. An Alaskan Malamute is trying to evade a Norwegian helicopter with an on-board rifleman frantically trying to kill the dog. The helicopter lands and the rifleman attempts to volley a thermite charge but accidentally drops the grenade. The pilot tries to pick it up but dies in the subsequent explosion, destroying the helicopter in the process. Unable to communicate with the American team in English, the rifleman fires at the dog, grazing Bennings, one of the researchers. The man is then shot and killed by Garry, the station commander.

Not knowing what to make of the incident, the station crew adopts the dog, placing it in the hands of Clark, the sled-dog handler. Unable to contact the outside world via radio, helicopter pilot R.J. MacReady and Dr. Copper risk a flight to the Norwegian camp for answers, but find the entire compound in charred ruins. MacReady and Copper enter the charred building to find an axe stuck in the door, the Norwegian personnel missing, and the body of a man (named Colin in the prequel) who appears to have committed suicide in the radio room. While Cooper collects videotapes and documents for evidence, MacReady searches the rest of the camp and discovers a large block of excised ice with a hollowed cavity in a room with a large hole in the roof. Outside the camp, the two also discover the burned remains of a mangled humanoid corpse with two faces. They bring the twisted body back to the camp, but an autopsy by Dr. Blair is inconclusive aside from the fact that the creature’s body contains a set of normal internal organs.

At a request by Bennings, Clark kennels the stray with the rest of the station’s sled dogs. Once alone, it transforms into a chaotic biomass that violently assaults the dogs with acidic fluids and whip-like tentacles. Alerted by the noise, MacReady and Clark summon the crew to the kennel with weapons, and Childs burns the creature with a flamethrower. A subsequent autopsy by Blair reveals that the stray dog was a mimetic extraterrestrial life form that assimilates and imitates other life forms on a cellular level. Realizing the implications of this, Blair quickly becomes withdrawn and suspicious of the others. Using the Norwegian research materials, MacReady, Norris and Palmer inspect a field site to discover a massive crater formed by an alien spacecraft. Norris and MacReady inspect the craft, which Norris estimates to be at least 100,000 years old, due to the age of the surrounding ice. Palmer, who remains at a distance, discovers the area from which the Norwegians had cut the large block of ice.

The burned corpse from the Norwegian camp is revealed to be still alive when Windows finds the carcass assimilating Bennings and alerts MacReady. The team corners the Bennings-Thing in mid-transformation and burn it with fuel, along with the corpse from the Norwegian camp. Blair, meanwhile, has calculated that the creature will assimilate the entire planet within three years should it ever reach civilization, and suffers a psychotic episode, destroying the helicopter and radio with an axe and killing the remaining sled dogs. The team manages to corner and overpower him, and locks him outside in the tool shed.

To determine which members of the team are infected, Copper recommends a blood serum test, but finds that the medical blood supply has been destroyed by sabotage. Suspicious, MacReady puts Garry, Copper, and Clark into isolation, and orders Fuchs to continue Blair’s work. An approaching snowstorm forces them inside tight quarters and MacReady makes a tape recording of the events in case he or the crew do not survive.

As a blizzard approaches, Fuchs goes missing shortly after a power failure. His burned remains are found outside, with his death suspected to be self-immolation. Station chef Nauls returns to the others after finding MacReady’s torn clothing in his shack’s oil furnace. During a heated debate about MacReady’s fate, MacReady breaks in and commandeers dynamite, forcing the others into a standoff that causes Norris to suffer a heart attack.

When Copper attempts to revive Norris by defibrillation, Norris is revealed to be the Thing when his torso transforms into a giant sharp jaws and bites off Copper’s arms, who quickly bleeds to death. MacReady quickly torches Norris’s body, but the creature’s head detaches itself from its torso, grows spider-like legs, and tries to crawl away. Fortunately, MacReady kills the creature and orders everyone to be tied up for a new improvised blood test. Clark tries to stab MacReady, but is shot and killed.

By observing the Norris-Thing, MacReady explains his theory that every individual piece of the alien is a distinct unit with its own survival instinct and a sample of the alien’s blood will react defensively and try to move away when touched with a heated metal wire. Drawing samples from each member, the test reveals that MacReady, Nauls, Childs, Garry, Windows, and the deceased Copper and Clark are human. But Palmer is revealed to be the Thing and transforms and kills Windows before MacReady burns it; MacReady then burns Windows’ body as it also begins to transform.

Leaving Childs behind for security, the others head to the tool shed in order to force Blair to take the blood test, only to find that he has escaped by tunneling underground. They find that Blair has been infected and has been scavenging parts of the helicopter and radio equipment to build a small spacecraft in a cavern beneath the tool shed. Childs is then seen inexplicably leaving his post just before the entire camp loses power.

MacReady concludes that the alien intends to freeze itself in the storm and await the arrival of the rescue team in the spring. Resigned to the probability that they will not escape alive, the team begins to dynamite the entire complex, hoping to force the Thing out in the open.

While rigging the generator room to explode, Garry is killed by the Blair-Thing. Nauls then disappears after he hears a noise and goes to check it out. As MacReady finishes setting the explosives, Blair transforms into a larger monster, demolishing the generator room and taking the detonator. Before being attacked, MacReady blows up both the Blair-Monster and the base with a stick of dynamite.

MacReady wanders the burning ruins to face his fate with a bottle of scotch and encounters Childs, who claims to have been lost in the storm after pursuing Blair, but MacReady is unconvinced. With the harsh weather closing in around them and without the energy to test which of them is really human, they acknowledge the futility of their situation. They sit sharing the bottle between them, as the camp burns. MacReady says, as the movie’s final line: “Why don’t we just… wait here for a little while… see what happens…”.


Not too long ago, a remake or prequel, not sure which, was released. I’m not exactly in a rush to see it, but I’m sure that at some point I will decide to give it a shot, so I figured why not check out the film that started it all. There is also the fact that Netflix only has it available on instant streaming until January 1. 

Please note, that while this is the film that almost everyone refers to when talking about the The Thing, it is actually a remake of a 1951 film, The Thing From Another World, but is apparently closer to the source material.

We have hear yet another example of why 80s movies tend to be so popular. I say this because of the way this film is paced and how the story develops. Had this been released today, there probably would have been some long expositional backstory and needless drama that lasts 3/4 of the film, whereas in this film, we get the basics and then move on to the good stuff. Thank goodness!

Now, the plot and story could do with a little more development, in my personal opinion, but I think the mystery of the Thing is what makes this film so creepy. Think about it this way, how scared are you of the lies of Freddy Krueger, Jason, Michael Myers, Pinhead, Leatherface, and even Chucky now that we’ve gotten like a gazillion films from all of them, as compared to the way you felt when you saw them at first. That is why it is good that we don’t know too much about the Thing, even though I’m sure there are those out there that feel we need to know everything about the creature, including what color its feces are!

The special effects in this flick are pretty good, especially for 1982. They don’t look hokey or cheesy, but at the same time, they don’t look as if the special effects artists were trying too hard to make them look “real”.

The acting is what you would expect from a film like this, nothing special, but you have to sit back and be impressed with how the cast captures the near madness of these men as the yare cooped up in Antarctica and then suddenly have to deal with this creature that is killing them off and replicating. Oh, and yes, this is an all male cast. There is nary a female in sight, although T.K. Carter’s character has some mannerisms that lead one to assume he may be playing for the other team, if you will.

Regarded as a cult classic, The Thing is much deserving of all its good press and whatnot. Is it worth the hype? I would say so. There is much to like about this film, and I’m sure there are also thing that many of you will not like so much, but isn’t that what makes us all unique? I didn’t necessarily love this flick, but I did enjoy it, and I recommend you give it a shot.

4 out of 5 stars



Fairy Tales

Posted in Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , on December 21, 2011 by Mystery Man



Little Bo Peep, Old King Cole, Little Tommy Tucker, Snow White and many other familiar characters are all grown up and ready for action. They sing, dance and lust their way through a series of naughty comic twists on their old familiar tales.


There really isn’t much to say about Fairy Tales. This is one of those late night sex comedies that really doesn’t have sex.

Yes, there are naked women, fully frontal, I might add, but no raunchy sex scenes the way this film seems to advertise.

If that all sounds bad, then the fact that this is also a musical…well, that was just even worse. The songs, though, really aren’t too terrible. They aren’t great, but at least they don’t leave you wincing.

The song sung by Aunt La Voh, played by Martha Reeves, of Martha Reeves & the Vandellas fame, is probably the best tink about this flick besides the different takes on the characters.

As you can guess, I wasn’t a big fan of this flick. I thought it was going ot be something more when I chose it, and not something I could see late night on Cinemax. The music is ok, but the plot is about as corny as one can get. The acting is flat out bad, but the fact that they went this direction with these characters is interesting. I won’t recommend this, but it is something to keep in mind if you’re even in the mood for something in this vein.

2 out of 5 stars

Kung Fu Panda 2

Posted in Animation, Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Years before the events of the first film, Lord Shen (Gary Oldman), heir of the peacock clan that ruled Gongmen City in ancient China, sought to harness the power of fireworks as a weapon with which to rule the entire country. When he learned from the court’s goat soothsayer (Michelle Yeoh) that “a warrior of black-and-white” would one day defeat him, Shen assumed she was referring to a panda and exterminated much of the panda population to avert the prophecy. Shen’s parents were horrified at this atrocity and exiled Shen, who swore revenge.

Thirty years later, Po (Jack Black) is living his dream as the Dragon Warrior, protecting the Valley of Peace alongside his friends and fellow kung fu masters, the Furious Five, but is told by Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) that he has yet to achieve inner peace. While fighting off a pack of wolf bandits who have been stealing refined metal for Lord Shen, Po is distracted by a symbol on the head wolf’s (Danny McBride) armor, which causes Po to have a flashback of his mother and allows the wolves to escape. Po asks his goose father, Mr. Ping (James Hong), where he came from, but all Ping can tell him is that he found Po as an infant in a radish crate and adopted him.

Afterwards, Shifu receives word that Master Thundering Rhino (Victor Garber), the leader of the kung fu council protecting Gongmen City, has been killed by Shen with his newly developed weapon, a cannon, with which he intends to destroy kung fu tradition and conquer China. Po and the Furious Five go to stop him, reaching Gongmen City to find it under the control of Shen’s forces. The heroes find two imprisoned council members, Masters Storming Ox (Dennis Haysbert) and Croc (Jean-Claude Van Damme), and ask their help to liberate the city, but both masters cite their helplessness against Shen’s weapon and refuse to help. Po and the Five are then discovered by the wolf leader, whom they chase to prevent him from alerting Shen, only to be captured by Shen’s army.

Upon being brought before Shen in his tower, Po and the Five free themselves and destroy Shen’s cannon. However, Po is again distracted by a flashback upon seeing the same symbol as before on Shen’s plumage, allowing Shen to escape and destroy the tower with an arsenal of cannons. After Po and the Five escape, Tigress (Angelina Jolie) confronts Po over his distraction. Po explains that he remembers Shen’s presence on the night he was separated from his parents, and wants to question Shen about his past. Though empathetic, Tigress tells Po to stay behind for his own safety.

Regardless, Po breaks into Shen’s cannon factory to confront him, inadvertently foiling the Five’s attempts to destroy the factory. Shen claims that Po’s parents never loved him before he blasts Po out of the factory and captures the Five. Po is rescued by Shen’s soothsayer, who has been exiled by Shen to the ruined village where Po was born. Guided by the soothsayer to embrace his past, Po remembers that when he was young, his parents had sacrificed themselves to save him from Shen’s forces, his mother hiding him in a radish crate before being subdued. Po thus attains inner peace, realizing that he had lived a happy and fulfilling life independent of this tragedy.

Po returns to Gongmen City to save the captive Five and prevent Shen’s conquest of China. During the ensuing battle (in which Ox and Croc participate after being persuaded by Shifu), Po uses his inner peace to enable a kung fu technique that allows him to redirect Shen’s cannon fire against his own armada, destroying it. Po then urges Shen to let go of his own past, but Shen attacks Po until he inadvertently slashes the ropes holding up his last cannon, which falls and crushes him to death. Victorious, Po returns to the Valley of Peace and reunites with Mr. Ping, lovingly declaring him to be his father. At the same time, Po’s biological father (Fred Tatasciore) is shown to be living in a far-off, hidden village inhabited by surviving pandas, and senses that his son is alive.


A couple of years ago, when I watched Kung Fu Panda, I really didn’t expect it to do well enough to warrant a sequel. I guess in this day and age, I should have known better as almost everything gets a sequel…except The Incredibles, for some strange reason.

So, let me start off by saying that this is a definite upgrade to the original film. Well, maybe upgrade isn’t the best word. Perhaps evolution? What I’m trying to say is that the first film wasn’t bad, but this one takes what worked there and improved on the formula. There is more action, a deeper story, more comedy, and of course, that heartwarming moment that all films like this have.

Let me start off by mentioning the voice cast. While there are many people who can’t stand Jack Black as an actor, when it comes to voicing characters, especially one that is more or less fashioned after him, his style really works.

Gary Oldman is masterful as the villainous, neurotic, and dare I say, psychotic Lord Shen. I don’t think this should come as a surprise, though. Oldman can do no wrong on screen, though it is hard to imagine him animated as a pigeon.

Like in the first film, Angelina Jolie as Tigress just doesn’t work. I don’t know if it is my distaste for her, or the fact that the character is not designed to look anywhere near feminine. Everytime she’s on the screen, I think it’s a guy. At least Viper has a flower in her “hair” to distinguish her.

The animation is much improved as well from the first film. I’m always amazed at how animation improves over time. Just look at something like The Simpsons or Family Guy and how they are animated now compared to when they first started. The difference is like night and day. The same thing sort of applies here.

I mentioned that there was more action and a deeper story, and I was not kidding. The action is on par with many of this summer’s action blockbusters, and just think, they didn’t have to pay extra for stuntmen or risk blowing up national monuments, streets, etc.

The story is a tad bit darker than one would think. It involves Po learning that Master Chen basically committed genocide to all pandas after a premonition from the soothsayer. Luckily, they don’t dwell too much on this and use it as a passing plot point, more or less to establish the evil that Shen has done and how psychotic he really is.

The fact that they went there with the family though is a nice touch, not to mention it sets up nice for a third film, which I believe is in production as I’m typing this.

Kung Panda 2 is a nice family film that will entertain everyone. The jokes are not too mature or anything like that for younger viewers and the film doesn’t seem dumbed down so adults can enjoy it, as well. If you can get past the cartoonish bouncing sound when ever someone bounces into or off Po’s belly, then you’re sure to enjoy this flick. I highly recommend it!

4 out of 5 stars

Conan the Barbarian

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , on December 21, 2011 by Mystery Man

conanPLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Conan the Barbarian is a film about a young barbarian’s quest to avenge his parents’ deaths. The story is set in the fictional Hyborian Age, thousands of years before the rise of modern civilization. The film opens with the words, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger”, a paraphrasing of Friedrich Nietzsche,on a black screen followed by a voice-over that establishes the film as the story of Conan’s origin. “A burst of drums and trumpets” accompanies the forging of a sword, after which the scene shifts to a mountain top, where the swordsmith tells his young son Conan about the Riddle of Steel, an aphorism on the importance of the metal to their people, the Cimmerians.

The Cimmerians are massacred by a band of warriors led by Thulsa Doom. Conan’s father is killed by dogs, and his sword is taken by Doom to decapitate Conan’s mother. The children are taken into slavery; Conan is chained to a large mill, the Wheel of Pain. Years of pushing the huge grindstone build up his muscles. His master trains him to be a gladiator, and after winning many pit fights, Conan is freed. As he wanders the world, he encounters a witch and befriends Subotai, a thief and archer.

Following the witch’s advice, Conan and Subotai go to Shadizar, in the land of Zamora, to seek out Doom. They meet Valeria, a female brigand, who becomes Conan’s lover. They burgle the Tower of Serpents, stealing a large jewel—the Eye of the Serpent—and other valuables from Doom’s snake cult. After escaping with their loot, the thieves celebrate and end up in a drunken stupor. The city guards capture them and bring them to King Osric. He requests they rescue his daughter, who has joined Doom’s cult. Subotai and Valeria do not want to take up the quest; Conan, motivated by his hatred for Doom, sets off alone to the villain’s Temple of Set.

Disguised as a priest, Conan infiltrates the temple, but he is discovered, captured, and tortured. Doom lectures him on the power of flesh, which he demonstrates by compelling a girl to leap to her death. He then orders Conan crucified on the Tree of Woe. The barbarian is on the verge of death when he is discovered by Subotai and brought to the Wizard of the Mounds, who lives on a burial site for warriors and kings.The wizard summons spirits to heal Conan and warns that they will “extract a heavy toll”, which Valeria is willing to pay. These spirits also try to abduct Conan, but he is restored to health after Valeria and Subotai fend them off.

Subotai and Valeria agree to complete Osric’s quest with Conan and they infiltrate the Temple of Set. As the cult indulges in a cannibalistic orgy, the thieves attack and flee with the princess. Valeria is mortally wounded by Doom after he shoots a stiffened snake at her. She dies in Conan’s arms and is cremated at the Mounds, where Conan prepares with Subotai and the wizard to battle Doom. By using booby-traps and exploiting the terrain, they manage to kill Doom’s soldiers. Valeria reappears for a brief moment as a Valkyrie to save Conan from a mortal blow.Conan recovers his father’s sword during the fight, although its blade is broken. After losing his men, Doom shoots a stiffened snake at the princess. Subotai blocks the shot and the villain flees to his temple.

Conan sneaks back into the temple where Doom stands at the top of a long stairway, addressing the members of his cult. Conan confronts Doom, who attempts to mesmerize him, but the barbarian resists and uses his father’s sword to behead his nemesis. After throwing Doom’s head down the stairs, Conan burns down the temple. He returns the princess, and the final scene shows him as an old king; the narration says his road to the throne is another tale


The film that introduced the film world to Arnold Schwarzenegger, Conan the Barbarian, is actually better than what I  expected it to be. That being said, this is still one of those mindless Saturday afternoon action flicks.

First thing I should mention is that there really isn’t much dialogue, except for in pockets to explain what it going on. So, while this is no Caveman, the lack of speaking in remnant of the first half of Wall-E.

There was a remake of this that came out this summer, and apparently didn’t do too well, but quite honestly, I don’t see why anyone would want to remake this. Most remakes are done to update references, or make something bloodier/more violent. There are no pop culture references here, at least that I picked up on, and the film is plenty bloody, albeit a tad on the fake side, but come on, it was 1982!

I didn’t really get the story here. I mean, it basically is Conan setting out to find the man who killed his father and along the way he becomes a thief and has to steal a king’s daughter back from, coincidentally, his father’s murderer.

What’s not to get about that? Well, it isn’t so much the plot itself, as much as it is the way the film is edited. Just when it seems like they were going to settle down and tell the story, they jump to something else totally different. It was like when you’re in school and ask a question to your teacher. They start out giving you an answer, then go on some other tangent, which leads to another, then another, and 15 minutes later they make it back to your question, just in time for the bell to ring.

Luckily, however, this is an action flick, and it doesn’t fail to deliver on that front. I could have done with some epic battles, but there was just something about this that reminded me of those old Sinbad movies, especially when it involved the snake.

Speaking of the snake, the special effects aren’t too bad, especially when one considers when this was released. You can’t get much better than that. On the flipside, however, the ghosts or souls or spirits or whatever those were during the death scene about halfway through looked like nothing more than some random strain of smoke from dry ice. If that was the intention, then fine, but I don’t think it was. They could have done better, if you ask me.

So, what is my final verdict on Conan the Barbarian? Well, it isn’t a bad film, but it does have its share of issues. The main reason to see this is the action and that it is the big screen debut of Schwrazenegger. I do recommend this, especially before you waste your time on the remake.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Spies Like Us

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on December 18, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Austin Millbarge is a geekish, basement-dwelling codebreaker for The Pentagon who aspires to escape his under-respected job to become a secret agent. Emmett Fitz-Hume, a wisecracking, pencil-pushing son of an envoy, takes the foreign service exam under peer pressure. Millbarge and Fitz-Hume meet during the test, on which Fitz-Hume openly attempts to cheat after an attempt to seduce his immediate supervisor in exchange for the answers backfires. Millbarge, however, was forced to take the test, having had only one day to prepare after his supervisor gives him a notice that was two weeks old.

Needing expendable agents to act as decoys to draw attention away from a more capable team, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) decides to enlist the two, promote them to be Foreign Service Operatives, put them through minimal training, and then send them on an undefined mission into Soviet Central Asia. Meanwhile, professional agents are well on their way to reaching the real objective: the seizure of a mobile SS-50 ICBM launcher. The main team takes a loss, while Millbarge and Fitz-Hume miraculously escape enemy traps, attacks, and other certain perils. Eventually the bumbling pair encounter Karen Boyer, the only surviving operative from the main team.

In the Pamir Mountains of the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic, the trio overpowers a mobile missile guard unit using hastily constructed extraterrestrial outfits and tranquilizer guns. Following orders in real-time from the intelligence agency (operating from a military bunker located deep under an abandoned drive-in theater), they begin to operate the launcher. At the end of their instructions, the vehicle launches the ICBM into space, targeting an unspecified area in the United States. Thinking they have begun a nuclear war, the American agents and their Soviet counterparts pair up to have sex before the world ends.

Meanwhile, the military commander at the operations bunker (Steve Forrest, initiates the conversion of the drive-in theater to expose what is hidden beneath the screens and projection booth: a huge black-op “Star Wars”-esque laser and collector/emitter screen). The purpose of sending the agents to launch a Soviet ICBM is thereby exposed as a means to test this anti-ballistic missile system. Unfortunately, the laser fails to intercept the nuclear missile, which is heading for the U.S. and will almost certainly trigger a global thermonuclear war.

Back in the Soviet Union, guilt-ridden and horrified at the thought of having launched a nuclear missile at their own country, the American spies (and their new Soviet friends) use Millbarge’s technical knowledge to force a malfunction in the launcher vehicle and transmit junk instructions to the traveling missile, sending it off into space where it detonates harmlessly. Immediately after, the underground bunker back at the drive-in theater is stormed by U.S. Army Rangers, and the intelligence and military officials involved in the covert operation are arrested. For their part, Millbarge, Fitz-Hume, and Boyer go on to become nuclear disarmament negotiators, playing a nuclear version of Risk-meets-Trivial Pursuit against their Soviet friends.


It was either this season or last, or maybe even before then, that there was an episode of Family Guy that spoofed this film by bringing in Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd. Every since then, I’ve been wondering what was so special about Spies Like Us. Now that I’ve seen it, when that episode comes on again, maybe I’ll actually get the jokes.

This 80s comedy is your basic trick two losers into thinking they’re doing something right and then use them as decoy spies. Yep, that is the basic idea behind the film here, as the stars of the film are two guys who aren’t exactly in a place in their life that would like to be, especially Aykroyd, but by some random chance, they take this test, on which Chase “subtlety” cheats and are rewarded with the opportunity to become spies, or so they think. In reality, the people in charge are just using them to divert attention away from the real spies, and allow them to accomplish their mission.

I must say that I really enjoyed the humor in this film. Then again, who doesn’t like good ol’ 80s slapstick. I wonder when it was that comedies stopped being as funny as they were back then?

Anyway, the chemistry between Chase and Aykroyd is really what drives this film along. Starting with the first time they meet in the test room all the way through to the film’s end, it is obvious that these are two kindred spirits of comedic genius.

The rest of the cast is forgettable, save for some cameos by the likes of Bob Hope, Terry Gilliam, and apparently Sam Raimi (but I missed him).

There is some nice eye candy in the forms of Heidi Sorenson, Donna Dixon, and  Vanessa Angel, but they are all forgettable roles, even if Angel and Dixon are major characters.

Spies Like Us deserves a spot among the great pantheon of 80s comedies, but it isn’t going to make any top 10 lists. Sure, it is well made and has lots of hilarious moments, but for the most part, it is a forgettable film. Yes, this movie is a contradiction, but for some reason, I think that is the charm of it all. I recommend you check it out when you get the chance.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars


Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Westerns with tags , , , , , , , on December 18, 2011 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The story, set in the American Old West, is a first-person account by a wisecracking gambler Bret Maverick (Mel Gibson), of his misadventures on the way to a major five-card draw poker tournament. Besides wanting to win the poker championship for the money, he also wants to prove, once and for all, that he is “the best”. However, complications keep getting in the way.

Maverick rides into the fictional town of Crystal River intending to collect money owed to him, as he is $3,000 short of the poker tournament entry fee of $25,000. His efforts to make up this $3,000 provide some plot motivation, as well as diversions caused by, and in the company of, three people he encounters at Crystal River: an antagonist named Angel (Alfred Molina), a young con-artist calling herself Mrs Annabelle Bransford (Jodie Foster), and legendary lawman Marshal Zane Cooper (James Garner, who played Bret Maverick in the original TV series). The first two are also rival poker players.

Maverick, Bransford and Cooper share a stagecoach (the driver of which dies at the reins at full gallop), agree to help a wagon train of migrant evangelist settlers who have been waylaid by ruffians (for a fee which Maverick in the end is too big-hearted to accept) and are headed-off by a troop of Indians led by Joseph (Graham Greene). Unknown to his companions, Joseph and Maverick are good friends, and Maverick allows himself to be “captured.” Joseph is another one of his unreliable debtors, and in and around his tribal grounds they collaborate on a scheme to swindle a Russian Grand Duke.

During this time, Angel has received a mysterious telegram ordering him to not allow Maverick to reach the poker game, and has also learned that Maverick had conned him in Crystal River. Angel catches up with Maverick after he has left Joseph’s tribe, beats him up and attempts to hang him. Despite being tied to both a tree and to his horse, Maverick escapes and reaches the poker game, which is taking place on a paddle steamer. Bransford and Angel have also reached the game, and Cooper has been engaged to oversee its security. Learning that Bransford is still short several thousand dollars of the entry fee, Maverick finds the Grand Duke on board and cons him out of the needed amount so she can get in the game.

After the others are eliminated, the four finalists are Maverick, Bransford, Angel, and Commodore Duvall (James Coburn), the boat’s owner and the tournament organizer. Maverick almost fails to reach the final table by the 5:00 AM deadline, having had his stateroom door chained shut (by an unknown person) after a short tryst with Bransford. The game proceeds, with Bransford the first eliminated, and shortly thereafter a “fixed” hand is dealt to the three remaining players. The Commodore is given four 8s and Angel is given a low straight flush, whilst Maverick has the 10, jack, queen and king of spades. The Commodore and Angel each bet “all in”. Maverick observes the dealer bottom-dealing to the others, protests the conduct of the hand, and eventually accepts one card dealt by Angel and calls without checking the card. It turns out to be the ace of spades, giving Maverick an unbeatable royal flush and the championship. An enraged Angel draws his gun, but he and his stooges in the audience are gunned down by Cooper and Maverick.

Three plot twists follow Maverick’s win. First, Cooper steals the $500,000 prize money instead of presenting it to Maverick. Second, it is revealed that the Commodore and Cooper were secretly in cahoots on the theft and that Angel had actually been working for the Commodore. Third, the Commodore betrays Cooper, but before he can shoot him, Maverick ambushes the two around a campfire and steals back the money, leaving them a single gun to settle their affairs. The gun turns out to be unloaded, and Cooper beats up the Commodore, then sets out to take revenge on Maverick.

Later, Maverick is relaxing in a bath-house when Cooper finds him, and drops the facade to reveal (to the audience) that he is in fact Maverick’s father. The real conspiracy was in fact between the two of them. However, Bransford enters the bath-house and robs Cooper and Maverick (whose relationship she had surmised from their similar mannerisms). After she escapes, Bret reveals she only got away with half of the money, as Maverick had hidden the rest in his boots. Maverick and his father smile as he comments that it will be a lot of fun getting the rest of the money back from her.


A week or two ago, I reviewed Wild Wild West, a film that was based on a western drama from back in the day. Much has been said about how that film ruined the legacy of the original show. However, Maverick, also took a drama from the same era and turned it into a comedy, but no one seemed to be up in arms about it. So, what is the difference?

Well, it is quite simple, really. This film actually makes sense!  Don’t get me wrong, I liked the over-the-top gadgetry featured in …West, but unfortunately, not everyone felt the same way.

I’ve never seen the Maverick series, so I can’t rightly say how close an adaptation this was or what they changed/took out, because I think it is safe to assume that we all know they did.

The first thing to mention about this film is that it is a light-hearted western, something we don’t see very often. Also, there isn’t really any gunplay. Wait, let me take that back, there are no real showdowns at high noon. Note that I said real ones, because there is one near the beginning, but when you watch the film and see how things play out you’ll understand what I mean when I say that it isn’t necessarily real.

The chemistry between the cast, especially Gibson (before he became a misogynistic Jew hater) and Jodie Foster is golden. James Garner, who I believe was the original Maverick, shows up the young buck Gibson. Look for a special exchange between the two near the end that no one sees coming. Of course, there is also Alfred Molina, who is one of the best villains around.

How is the story? Well, I won’t say it is the selling point of the picture, but it is pretty good. I do wish there would have been more of an explanation about Maverick’s relationship with chief Joseph, but maybe that little mystery was there for a reason. I will say that it isn’t crucial to the story, just an interesting tidbit.

There is a slight issue with the ending for me. It seems that after the resolution on the boat, there is a good 10-15 minutes of extra scenery that just was not needed. They would done just as well to cut some of that down and/or out and maybe have the Gibson/Garner scene as a post credit scene. It just seemed to make more sense that way, in my opinion.

The poker tournament is the setting for the film’s climax, and what a scene it is. Living in Louisiana, I’m more than familiar with steamboats and their majestic beauty. They really captured the essence of this magnificent machine.

I have to also mention the costume design. In the 50s and 60s, westerns were prevalent, so being able to come up with authentic western couture wasn’t that big of a deal, but this film was made in the early 90s, when westerns were nearly a forgotten memory. I was highly impressed with the way they were able to come up with such impressive clothing.

In the end, this film may not be on anyone’s list of greatest westerns, but you cannot deny that it is a good film. The great cast and excellent story lead to a very entertaining and enjoyable experience. Would I recommend this to anyone? Surely I would. There really is no reason that I can think of to not at least think about checking it out.

4 out of 5 stars