Archive for May, 2012

Bikini Beach

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , on May 30, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

School is out and the teenagers head for the beach. All is well until millionaire Harvey Huntington Honeywagon III (Wynn) comes around, convinced that the beachgoers are so senselessly obsessed with sex that their mentality is below that of a primate – especially Honeywagon’s wunderkind pet chimp Clyde, who can surf, drive, and watusi better than anyone on the beach. With the teenagers demoralized and discredited, Honeywagon plans to turn Bikini Beach into a senior citizens retirement home.

Meanwhile, foppish British rocker and drag racer Peter Royce Bentley, better known as “The Potato Bug” (played by Frankie Avalon in a dual role), has taken up residence on Bikini Beach. Annoyed by Frankie’s reluctance to start their relationship towards marriage, Dee Dee becomes receptive to Potato Bug’s advances. In a jealous rage, Frankie challenges The Potato Bug to a drag race, in hopes of winning Dee Dee back.

REVIEW:

For the longest time I’ve been looking for an excuse to check out these Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello beach movies. Seeing as how it is summer break, I figured now would be the best time to check them out. Just like it did with Clint Eastwood’s “Man with No Name” trilogy, I somehow managed to skip the first two films and start with the third, Bikini Beach. Fret not, though, I will be backtracking.

What did I like?

Fun in the sun. Unless you’re lucky enough to live in parts of California, Florida, Hawaii, or maybe even New Jersey, chances are you didn’t grow up near a beach. For me, the beach was nowhere near where we lived. I really liked how this flick emphasized the kids having fun on the beach during the summer. I don’t know, there is just something about that camaraderie that I really dug.

Music. They have this labeled as a musical, but I wouldn’t quite call it that. However, the songs that are present are enjoyable…forgetful, but enjoyable.

4 in 1. I read that the character of Potato Bug was originally supposed to have been the Beatles, but they pulled out because of their growing fame (this was filmed not too long after their initial appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.) If you watch him, you can see that perhaps it would have worked with them, but 1 guy taking bits of all 4 worked better. Remember the vultures from The Jungle Book? That’s what he reminds me of.

Oldies. I was surprised that there weren’t more adults. You know, the kind that seem to spend more time at the beach than the kids, but the whole time they’re screaming and scheming to either shut the place down or for the kids to get a job. With the exception of the film’s antagonist and a couple of the supporting characters and some old people who kind of had something to do with a plot that was barely touched on, there were very few adults to be seen.

Love story for the ages. Long have I heard of the chemistry between Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, but this is my first time seeing it. While I won’t put it up there with the like of Bogey and Bacall or Astaire and Rogers, there is a spark between them.

Duplicity. I’ll be honest, I don’t know much about Frankie Avalon. Hell, the most I’ve seen of him is when he’s singing “Beauty School Drop-Out” in Grease. I do know that the guy is a talent, and he shows it by playing two totally different characters. Not only that, but he plays one of those characters playing the other, which was quite impressive.

Cameos. There are a couple of cameos that are sure to have audiences falling in love with this casting director. I won’t say who they are, but one is perhaps the most well known horror creature actor, and the other is one of the greatest musicians to come out of Motown.

What didn’t I like?

Don’t be so obvious. We have a monkey who is supposedly smarter than the teens, but it so obvious it is a guy in a suit that it isn’t even funny. I’m willing to give them a pass on this, but they didn’t even try to cover up his fake-ness.

Story. As enjoyable as the flick is, the story causes it to suffer. It just doesn’t really seem to know where it is going and, as such, leaves us, the audience confused as all get out.

What a drag. Much in the way Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace seems to have just thrown the pod race in to make things more “interesting”, I think this film threw the drag race in for that same reason

Bikinis. There are basically two scenes involving bikinis. Yep, for a film with bikini in the title, there is a serious lack of them. I’m not saying the whole thing needed to be girls running around in their underwear or something ,but there could have been more bikini clad babes. I’m just saying.

If you’re looking for a fun summer flick and you’re into the oldies, then you really should giveBikini Beacha shot. It has a little of something for everyone. I highly recommend this as something you should see before you die!

4 1/3 out of 5 stars

They Live

Posted in Horror, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , on May 30, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

A nameless unemployed drifter, referred to as “Nada” (Roddy Piper), finds construction work in Los Angeles. Fellow worker Frank Armitage (Keith David) takes him to a local shantytown for food and rest, where Nada notices odd behavior; a blind preacher urges people to take action outside a local church with shantytown member Gilbert (Peter Jason), a police helicopter scouts overhead and a homeless drifter (George Buck Flower) complains as a bearded man interrupts the TV signal, urging action against those in power. Nada investigates and finds the church is a front; the choir is actually an audio recording and scientific apparatus and cardboard boxes fill the room. Nada sees a wall compartment hiding another box but escapes when the preacher catches him. At night, police bulldoze the shantytown and attack its fleeing inhabitants. In the morning, Nada finds the church empty, but procures the hidden box. At an alleyway, he stashes it, finding it full of black sunglasses and taking a pair.

Looking through them, Nada discovers the reality of the bleak world. The media and advertising actually contain totalitarian commands of obedience and conformity in consumerism, to control an unwitting human population. Many with authority and wealth are actually humanoid aliens with skull-like faces. Nada confronts an alien woman at a store, who then speaks into a wristwatch notifying the others about him. Two alien police officers apprehend Nada but he kills them, taking their guns and going on a shooting spree against aliens in a bank, while one vanishes using his wristwatch. Nada escapes, destroying an alien flying camera and taking Cable 54 assistant director Holly Thompson (Meg Foster) hostage. At her hill-top home, Nada tries to convince her of the truth while suffering a headache from the glasses. Instead, Holly knocks him through her window and calls the police. Nada tumbles down and escapes, leaving his belongings behind.

Nada returns to the alleyway, saving the sunglasses box from a garbage truck. He tries convincing Frank to put on another pair, but Frank wishes no involvement as Nada is now a wanted man. The two engage in a fistfight as Nada forces the glasses onto Frank, who then sees the truth as well. They rent a hotel to discuss their predicament before Gilbert contacts them, notifying of a secret meeting with others against the aliens. There, Nada and Frank are given updated contact lenses to replace their glasses and learn more from the bearded man’s transmission. The aliens control Earth as their third world, causing global warming as they deplete its resources before moving onto other planets. Frank is given an alien wristwatch, a complex radio and teleportation device. The aliens primarily use a signal to disguise themselves and destroying its source will make everyone on Earth see them. Holly appears, apparently joining the cause and apologises to Nada. However the police attack the meeting, killing anyone in sight, while Nada and Frank are cornered fighting their way out. Frank accidentaly opens a temporary portal by throwing the watch, through which the two jump into a network of underground passages.

The two find the aliens in a grand hall celebrating with their elite human collaborators. The homeless drifter from earlier, now a well-dressed collaborator, believes the two to be collaborators as well. He takes them on a tour of the passages, revealed to link the alien society, including a space travel port. A further passage leads to the basement of Cable 54 station and the source of the signal. The collaborator escapes by teleporting as the two attack their way through the building to find the broadcaster on the roof, finding Holly and taking her along. As Nada climbs to the signal broadcaster, disguised as a satellite dish, Holly kills Frank. Revealed to be a collaborator, she takes aim at Nada along with an alien police helicopter, persuading him to stop. Nada drops his gun, but then retrieves a hidden pistol from his sleeve and kills Holly. He then shoots and destroys the broadcaster but is killed by the alien police, giving them the finger as his last act. With the signal destroyed, humans discover the aliens in their midst.

REVIEW:

The other day, Yahoo! had an article about the best alien movies and They Live was on there. I’m not one to really use them as my source for what and what not to watch, but I figured it couldn’t hurt anything. I have to say that I think this was one of the biggest wastes of time I’ve ever encountered.

There wasn’t much I liked about this flick, if anything.

Homage to the old school. I love classic sci-fi flicks, such as The Day the Earth Stood Still. When we see the aliens (through the use of special sunglasses), it is through a special black and white filter that apparently pays homage to those classic films of the 40s and 50s. Truth be told, if this would have been entirely in black and white, or even in a different era, it may have been 1000x better!

Accent be gone. I think most people know Rowdy Roddy Piper as the loud, obnoxious wrestler who was Hulk Hogan’s rival in the mid 80s…at least according to the Saturday morning cartoon, Hulk Hogan’s Rock ‘n Wrestling it was. I don’t believe his accent is real, but it was nice to hear him tone it down…a lot!

What didn’t I like?

No life. In contrast to the film’s title, the plot has no life to it. I just wasn’t able to get into the story. For something like this, there should have been something more exciting, not just some random bad acting and effects.

Plotholes. I could spend all day listing all the plotholes in this flick, but I’ll spare you. Just be aware that there are many, many places where you will be scratching your head wondering WTF?!?

They Live just didn’t do it for me. I felt like this film could have been so much more and it just wasn’t. How it has attained such a cult status is beyond me, maybe it has something to do with the economic themes it touches on. At any rate, I wouldn’t recommend this to my worst enemy!

1 1/2 out of 5 stars

Cleopatra

Posted in Classics, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 27, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film opens in 48 B.C. shortly after the Battle of Pharsalus where Julius Caesar (Rex Harrison) has defeated Pompey. Pompey flees to Egypt, hoping to enlist the support of the young Pharaoh Ptolemy XIII (Richard O’Sullivan) and his sister Cleopatra (Elizabeth Taylor).

Caesar pursues and meets the teenage Ptolemy and the boy’s advisers, who seem to do most of the thinking for him. As a gesture of ‘goodwill’, the Egyptians present Caesar with Pompey’s head, but Caesar is not pleased; it is a sorry end for a worthy foe. As Caesar settles in at the palace, Apollodorus (Cesare Danova), disguised as a rug peddler, brings a gift from Cleopatra. When a suspicious Caesar unrolls the rug, he finds Cleopatra herself concealed within and is intrigued. Days later, she warns Caesar that her brother has surrounded the palace with his soldiers and that he is vastly outnumbered. Caesar is unconcerned. He orders the Egyptian fleet burned so he can gain control of the harbor. The fire spreads to the city, burning many buildings, including the famous Library of Alexandria. Cleopatra angrily confronts Caesar, but he refuses to pull troops away from the fight with Ptolemy’s forces to deal with the fire. In the middle of their spat, Caesar begins kissing her.

The Romans hold, and the armies of Mithridates arrive on Egyptian soil. The following day, Caesar passes judgment. He sentences Ptolemy’s lord chamberlain to death for arranging an assassination attempt on Cleopatra, and rules that Ptolemy and his tutor be sent to join Ptolemy’s now greatly outnumbered troops, a sentence of death as the Egyptian army faces off against Mithridates. Cleopatra is crowned Queen of Egypt. She dreams of ruling the world with Caesar. When their son Caesarion is born, Caesar accepts him publicly, which becomes the talk of Rome and the Senate.

Caesar returns to Rome for his triumph, while Cleopatra remains in Egypt. Two years pass before the two see each other again. After he is made dictator for life, Caesar sends for Cleopatra. She arrives in Rome in a lavish procession and wins the adulation of the Roman people. The Senate grows increasingly discontented amid rumors that Caesar wishes to be made king, which is anathema to the Romans. On the Ides of March in 44 B.C., the Senate is preparing to vote on whether to award Caesar additional powers. Despite warnings from his wife Calpurnia (Gwen Watford) and Cleopatra, he is confident of victory. However, he is stabbed to death by various senators.

Octavian (Roddy McDowall), Caesar’s nephew, is named as his heir, not Caesarion. Realizing she has no future in Rome, Cleopatra returns home to Egypt. Two years later, Caesar’s assassins, among them Cassius (John Hoyt) and Brutus (Kenneth Haigh), are killed at the Battle of Philippi. The following year, Mark Antony (Richard Burton) establishes a second triumvirate with Octavian and Lepidus. They split up the empire: Lepidus receives Africa, Octavian Spain and Gaul, while Antony will take control of the eastern provinces. However, the rivalry between Octavian and Antony is becoming apparent.

While planning a campaign against Parthia in the east, Antony realizes he needs money and supplies, and cannot get enough from anywhere but Egypt. After refusing several times to leave Egypt, Cleopatra gives in and meets him in Tarsus. Antony becomes drunk during a lavish feast. Cleopatra sneaks away, leaving a slave dressed as her, but Antony discovers the trick and confronts the queen. They soon become lovers. Octavian uses their affair in his smear campaign against Antony. When Antony returns to Rome to address the situation brewing there, Octavian traps him into a marriage of state to Octavian’s sister, Octavia (Jean Marsh). Cleopatra flies into a rage when she learns the news.

A year or so later, when Antony next sees Cleopatra, he is forced to humble himself publicly. She demands a third of the empire in return for her aid. Antony acquiesces and divorces Octavia. Octavian clamors for war against Antony and his “Egyptian whore”. The Senate is unmoved by his demands until Octavian reveals that Antony has left a will stating that he is to be buried in Egypt; shocked and insulted, the Senators who had previously stood by Antony abandon their hero and vote for war. Octavian murders the Egyptian ambassador, Cleopatra’s tutor Sosigenes (Hume Cronyn), on the Senate steps.

The war is decided at the naval Battle of Actium on September 2, 31 B.C. where Octavian’s fleet, under the command of Agrippa, defeats the Anthony-Egyptian fleet. Seeing Antony’s ship burning, Cleopatra assumes he is dead and orders the Egyptian forces home. Antony follows, leaving his fleet leaderless and soon defeated. Several months later, Cleopatra manages to convince Antony to retake command of his troops and fight Octavian’s advancing army. However, Antony’s soldiers have lost faith in him and abandon him during the night; Rufio (Martin Landau), the last man loyal to Antony, is killed. Antony tries to goad Octavian into single combat, but is finally forced to flee into the city.

When Antony returns to the palace, Apollodorus, not believing that Antony is worthy of his queen, convinces him that she is dead, whereupon Antony falls on his own sword. Apollodorus then takes Antony to Cleopatra, and he dies in her arms. Octavian captures the city without a battle and Cleopatra is brought before him. He wants to return to Rome in triumph, with her as his prisoner. However, realizing that her son is also dead, she arranges to be bitten by a poisonous asp. She sends her servant Charmian to give Octavian a letter. In the letter she asks to be buried with Antony. Octavian realizes that she is going to kill herself and he and his guards burst into Cleopatra’s chamber and find her dressed in gold and her and her servant Iras dead while an asp crawls along the floor. Octavian is angry that she is dead and leaves. One of Octavian’s guards asks dying Charmian if the queen killed herself well and Charmian answers, “Extremely well” and dies.

REVIEW:

When Elizabeth Taylor passed away awhile back, I wanted to brush up on some of her films. Cleopatra was one that everyone has mentioned as her greatest role, so I was curious to check it out. Why did it take so long to get to it, well, it is four hours long!!! I’m not one of those people who cares for these excessively long movies, so I was in no rush to check it out, but I finally caved.

Somewhere I read that this film has been described as “opulent, decadent excess”. I can’t say that I disagree. So, what did I like?

History lesson. I know a fair bit about Caesar and many things Egyptian, but some somehow I’m not too familiar with Cleopatra, other than she’s like Angelina Jolie (overrated beauty). Like most historical pictures, this flick takes liberties with history, but there are parts that are accurate. These are the scenes that make you wish you could have watched it in history class. Wouldn’t that have been more interesting than listening to your teacher lecture for an hour?

Beauty of a betty. Elizabeth Taylor was a definitive looker back in her day. In the early parts of the film, when she is getting bathed by her slave girls, she even shows off her body…or at least all that could be shown in 1963. Combine all that with her talent and it is no wonder she was cast, despite her, shall we say…lack of pigment?

Epic scale. While this wasn’t filmed in Rome or Egypt, the sets were on a grand scale. If this was done today, most of it would have been computer generated, more than likely. You know how no one wants to work on their craft anymore. Back in the day, such hard work paid off, as can be seen in this film.

Costumes. Similar to the sets, the costumes are just as epic. I think I read that Taylor made around 80 costume changes (don’t quote me on that, though).

Story and performances.  As with 99.9999% of films made in yesteryear, the story is well crafted and executed and the cast gives flawless performances. It shows that people actually cared back then, as opposed to today where filmmakers have all but turned everything over to the computers and think of nothing but money.

What didn’t I like?

Not enough Cleopatra. Seeing as how she is the title character, I was expecting there to have been more of her, and there just wasn’t. I felt that there was too much focus on Caesar, Mark Antony, and to a lesser extent, Octavius. You can make the case about her own story not being that interesting, but I’m sure there was plenty going on down there in Egypt while this film was focusing on Rome.

Not an opera. 4 hours is just too long. The only way I can excuse anything for being that long, is if it was an opera. I know for a fact that I dozed off a couple of times. There are two things they could have done with this. Either split it into two separate films or cut some stuff out. Simple as that.

Whitewash. I’m not one to go on a tangent about race, and I won’t start now. However, last I checked, Egyptians were rather dark-skinned, and yet I don’t believe I saw a single non-white person in the entire films, save for that one African tribe that was dancing fairly early on in the film.

This film is truly a classic. While it may not have been as commercial a success as they would have liked for it have been, it has gone on to make up for that, especially with the legacy of Taylor and the love story that developed between she and leading man Richard Burton. Despite the excessive length, I highly recommend this flick. It is definitely one of those that one must see before they die!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

The Informant!

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on May 26, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Mark Whitacre, a rising star at Decatur, Illinois based Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) in the early 1990s, blows the whistle on the company’s price-fixing tactics at the urging of his wife Ginger.

One night in November 1992, Whitacre confesses to FBI special agent Brian Shepard that ADM executives — including Whitacre himself — had routinely met with competitors to fix the price of lysine, an additive used in the commercial livestock industry. Whitacre secretly gathers hundreds of hours of video and audio over several years to present to the FBI. He assists in gathering evidence by clandestinely taping the company’s activity in business meetings at various locations around the globe such as Tokyo, Paris, Mexico City, and Hong Kong, eventually collecting enough evidence of collaboration and conspiracy to warrant a raid of ADM.

Whitacre’s good deed dovetails with his own major infractions and his internal, secret struggle with bipolar disorder seems to take over his exploits. The bulk of the film focuses on Whitacre’s meltdown resulting from the pressures of wearing a wire and organizing surveillance for the FBI for three years, instigated by Whitacre’s reaction, in increasingly manic overlays, to various trivial magazine articles he reads. In a stunning turn of events immediately following the covert portion of the case, headlines around the world report that Whitacre had embezzled $9 million from his own company at the same period of time he was secretly working with/ for the FBI and taping his co-workers, while simultaneously aiming to be elected as ADM CEO following the arrest and conviction of the remaining upper management members. In the ensuing chaos, Whitacre appears to shift his trust and randomly destabilize his relationships with Agent Shepard, his partner Agent Herndon and numerous attorneys in the process.

Authorities at ADM began investigating, in an attempt to cover tracks, the mounted papertrail with forged names and specs that Whitacre had built to cover his own subversive deeds. After being confronted with evidence of his fraud, Whitacre’s reasoning and defensive claims begin to spiral out of control, including an accusation of assault and battery against Agent Shepard and the FBI, which had made a substantial move to distance their case from Whitacre entirely. Because of this major infraction and Whitacre’s bizarre behavior, he was sentenced to a prison term three times as long as that meted out to the white-collar criminals he helped to catch. In the epilogue of Whitacre’s case, Agent Herndon visits inmate Whitacre in prison as he videotapes a futile appeal to seek a presidential pardon. Overweight, balding and psychologically beaten after his years long ordeal, Mark Whitacre is eventually released from prison with his wife Ginger, waiting to greet him.

REVIEW:

There is something about when someone says I should watch a flick that gets me interested in it, whether it is good or not. The Informant! was recommended by one of my bosses, so I kind of felt obligated to check it out.

What did I like?

Tonality. I like how this film had a not so dark tone. Yes, I know I say that in a lot of my reviews, but I get so tired of seeing these dark, morose, depressing flicks. With this one, based on the subject matter, they could have easily gone some serious, dark route, but instead keep things light, a tad on the comedic side, and add a flair of that cheesy 60s kitsch. At first, I was like wtf?!?, but it grew on me and actually made the film more enjoyable.

Narration. With the narration that is going on from Mark Whitcare, you’re sitting and thinking “is this guy losing his mind?” Truth is, I think that was the point, because, if you will notice as he gets more intertwined in the corruption and whatnot, his  mental ramblings make less and less sense.

Slimy, yet satisfying. Speaking of all the corruption, it is so easy to get lost in what is going with these two-faced characters (this is a true story, btw, so these are real people), yet the films is shot and told in such a way that we can all keep up.

No Soup for you! Yes, there are great performances from the likes of Scott Bakula and Matt Damon, but I would have to say the best had to be a surprisingly serious turn from the host of E!’s The Soup, Joel McHale. Everytime he would appear, I was expecting him to at least crack a smile, but he plays this character as straight as they come, and isn’t half bad at it. Perhaps he has a future in movies when he leaves TV.

What didn’t I like?

Nothing special. There is nothing about this flick that just sticks out to me. For the most part, it is nothing special, when there could have been a scene, character, or something that captures your attention.

Lysine. I may have missed it, but I don’t they exactly told us what lysine is. This is kind of a big thing, since it is the product behind the whole price-fixing scheme.

Intelligence question. I do have to question Whitcare’s intelligence. Why on Earth would you dare to try to cheat the Feds and your company? On top of that, why would you think there would be no consequences for doing so? I realize this guy is no super-criminal, obviously, but you gotta wonder if he’s that naive or just truly stupid!

When all the dust clears, I have to say that The Informant! was a good watch, but nothing that I’ll remember when I wake up in the morning. This is truly disappointing, but I can’t use that to discourage others from seeing it. This is worth watching at least once. Some will like and other won’t, such is the way of things. Only you can tell what your opinion will be after you watch it. For me, it was just average.

3 1/3 out of 5 stars

Chocolat

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Vianne Rocher (Juliette Binoche), an expert chocolatier, drifts across Europe with her daughter Anouk (Victoire Thivisol) . In the winter of 1959, they travel to a tranquil French village that closely adheres to tradition, as led by the village mayor, Comte Paul de Reynaud (Alfred Molina). Vianne opens a Chocolaterie just as the villagers begin observing the forty days of Lent, much to the chagrin of Reynaud. Vianne, who wears more provocative clothing, does not go to church, and has an illegitimate child, does not fit in well with the town’s people, but is nevertheless optimistic about her business. Her friendly and alluring nature begins to win the villagers over one by one, causing Reynaud to openly speak against her for tempting the people during a time of abstinence and self-denial.

One of the first to fall under the spell of Vianne and her confections is Armande (Judi Dench), her elderly, eccentric landlady. Armande laments that her cold, devoutly-pious daughter Caroline (Carrie-Anne Moss) will not let her see her grandson Luc because she is a “bad influence”. Vianne arranges for Luc and his Grandmother to see each other in the chocolaterie, where they develop a close bond. Caroline later reveals to Vianne that her mother is a diabetic, though Armande continues to indulge in the chocolate despite her condition.

Vianne also develops a friendship with a disturbed woman, Josephine (Lena Olin), who is a victim of brutal beatings by her alcoholic husband Serge (Peter Stormare). After a particularly brutal blow to the head, Josephine leaves her husband and moves in with Vianne and Anouk. As she begins to work at the chocolaterie and Vianne teaches her her craft, Josephine becomes a self-confident, changed woman. Under the instruction of Reynaud, Serge seemingly changes into a better man and he asks Josephine to come back to him. Finally happy and fulfilled, Josephine declines. A drunken Serge breaks into the chocolaterie later that night and attempts to attack both women before Josephine, in a moment of empowerment, knocks him out with a skillet.

As the rivalry between Vianne and Reynaud worsens, a band of river gypsies camp out on the outskirts of the village. While most of the town objects to their presence, Vianne embraces them, developing a mutual attraction to the gypsy Roux (Johnny Depp). Together they hold a birthday party for Armande with other village members and gypsies on Roux’s boat. When Caroline sees Luc, who snuck out to go to the party, dancing with her mother, she begins to see how rigid she is with her son and that his grandmother’s influence in his life may not be a bad thing.

After the party Vianne, Josephine, and Anouk all sleep on the boats, where Roux and Vianne make love. Late that night, Serge sets the boat where Josephine and Anouk are sleeping on fire. Both escape unharmed, but Vianne’s faith in the village is shaken. Also that night, Luc returns to his grandmother’s living room to see that she has finally died from complications of diabetes, devastating both him and his mother. After the fire, Roux packs up and leaves with his group, much to Vianne’s sadness.

Deciding she cannot win against Reynaud or the strict traditions of the town, Vianne resolves to move to another place. Just before she does so, she goes into her kitchen to see most of the townspeople, who have come to love her and the way she has changed their lives, making chocolate for a festival Vianne had planned on Easter Sunday. Despite the major change in the town, Reynaud remains staunch in his abstinence from pleasures such as chocolate. On the Saturday evening before Easter, he opens the chocolate display and destroys the various confections with a knife. When a small piece of chocolate lands on his lip, he gives into the seduction and devours the chocolate before collapsing into tears and eventually falling asleep. The next day, Vianne promises not to reveal what happened, and a mutual respect between them is established. Roux returns in the summer to be with her, and despite her constant need for change, Vianne resolves to stay, having found a home for herself and her daughter in the village.

REVIEW:

I don’t know too many people who don’t like chocolate…even in this day and age when everything is either bad for you or has to be healthy or else it is bad for you and will automatically make you obese. A while back, there was a little movie called Chocolat thar was one of those films that swept the awards show, yet not many people saw it, mainly because it wasn’t one of those wide releases. I’m finally taking the time to give this a shot, going solely on word of mouth, and nothing else.

So, what did I like.

Decadent delights. If it is in the title, how can you not focus on chocolate at least for a little bit, right? For those of you foodies out there, you get plenty of scenes where the chocolate is the focus. It is almost like the opening scenes of one of those Willy Wonka films, I can’t remember which one, though.

Beauty and talent. I think I have a new celebrity crush…Juliette Binoche. Not only is she hot, but she can act circles around most of this cast, which is comprised of some heavy hitters, such as Alfred Molina and Dame Judi Dench. Shame we don’t see more of her these days, but hey, if you were gonna be remembered for something, then this would be what I would go for. She sort of reminds me, at least in this film, of Carla Gugino.

Touching story. This isn’t the first film to feature a very religious town that starts out hating something just because it is different, only to  come around by the end of the flick, but you throw in the gypsy pirates, the relationship between mother and daughter, as well as Judi Dench’s story (and heartbreaking death), you can’t help but be moved.

Light-hearted feel. As heavy as some of the drama is in this film, it doesn’t lose its light-hearted, semi-comedic feel, and that is what I think is the most appealing part of this film.

What didn’t I like.

People’s attitudes. How can a whole town be so full of hatred for something different. I would really like to know. Sure, there were a couple of residents that didn’t fall into that category, but on the whole, this town’s attitudes is an insult and detriment to the human race.

All powerful mayor. How in the blue hell does the mayor have his own statue in the middle of town (unless that’s something they do for the current mayor), have nearly limitless power and influence, and above all, seem to have more power over the church than the pope?!? This guy also seems to have approve the priest’s sermon before he gives them. Who knows what else he has the power to do, and that is quite scary!

All in all, I really did enjoy Chocolat. For some reason, though, I knew I would. I think, though, that just about anyone that watches this will have a good time watching. Yes, there is a lull a little past half way, but nothing too bad. This is one of those films that I have to agree with the critics on. It is great and a must see. So, check it out when you get the chance!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Men in Black 3

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

On July 16, 1969, Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) apprehended the intergalactic criminal Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) at Cape Canaveral in Florida before setting up the ArcNet shield, which protected Earth from an invasion by Boris’ species and rendered them extinct forever.

In spring of 2012, 43 years later, Boris manages to escape from the Lunar Max prison facility on the Moon and arrives on Earth, intent on taking revenge on K – who took away his left arm during his arrest and locked him for decades. After investigating a spaceship crash in New York City, K deduces that Boris has sprung out of prison, and he regrets not having killed him back in 1969. He returns back to his apartment.

The next day, Agent J (Will Smith) notices that K is no longer in his apartment. He arrives at MIB headquarters to discover that K has been dead for over 40 years. Agent O (Emma Thompson) , the new Chief after Z’s passing and retirement (with his memory erased), deduces that there has been a fracture in the space-time continuum based on J’s insatiable craving for chocolate milk to ameliorate his headaches. J comes to the conclusion that Boris acquired a time-jump device and traveled back to 1969 to kill K, resulting in an inevitable invasion of Earth due to the absence of the ArcNet. J goes to Obadiah Prince (Lanny Flaherty) , a black market dealer who sold Boris the time-jump device, and acquires one of his own. As the time-jump device needs a certain amount of velocity to activate, J must jump off the Chrysler Building to make the time-travel. He travels to July 15, 1969 – one day before the incident involving Boris and Agent K.

Upon arriving at the timeline, J travels to Coney Island, knowing that Boris will be committing a murder based on the original incident report he accessed beforehand. However, a younger agent K (Josh Brolin) arrests him and has him placed in a larger, more primitive Neuralyzer. At the very last second, J convinces K to stop the process when he reveals the truth of his mission. K decides that he is telling the truth and takes him to the MIB headquaters, which is largely changed that it’s in it’s 2012 version. He also meets with a younger version of Agent O (Alice Eve). They eventually work together and follow Boris’ trail. Their clues lead them to a prescient alien named Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg) , who is in possession of the ArcNet. Being able to look into multiple probable future outcomes and scenarios, he warns the two agents of Boris’ impending arrival and hurriedly leaves the venue.

Based on the clues left for them, the Agents locate Griffin, who gives them the shield that has to be placed onto the Apollo 11 lunar rocket launch occurring in less than six hours. Upon arriving at Cape Canaveral, the two agents and Griffin are quickly arrested by military police. The Colonel (Mike Colter) in the scene, however, allows the two agents to carry on their mission after Griffin uses his precognitive power to show them “how important they are”. The Colonel shares a long look with Griffin, his demeanor immediately softens, and he seems to take a more personal interest in assisting Agents J and K in their mission. The reason for this is revealed shortly thereafter.

J and K arrive at the launch pad, but are confronted separately by both 1969 and modern-day incarnations of Boris. Modern-day Boris impales J with his spikes before they both fall off the pad; however, J uses the time-jump to travel back to the beginning of the fight and avoid the spikes before pushing the criminal off the pad into the fiery exhaust gases of the rocket. Meanwhile, as K battles the younger Boris, he ruptures a fueling hose, causing it to spray liquid nitrogen on 1969 Boris’ left arm and shatter it. K then successfully plants the ArcNet on the rocket, which deploys after reaching the Earth’s atmosphere. The Colonel congratulates K, who in turn invites him to join the agency.

As J watches from the distance, however, 1969 Boris emerges from the blast chamber and kills the Colonel before he changes into his true alien form only to be disintegrated by K within seconds. A young boy named James (Cayen Martin) exits a military van near their location looking for his father. He pulls the pocket watch out of his pocket revealed earlier in the movie to have been passed down to Agent J’s by his father. This reveals James to be Agent J as a little boy and the Colonel to be his father. Young James is slowly coaxed away from the gruesome truth by K while older Agent J looks on in sadness from a distance in realization that he just watched his own father die and that Agent K tenderly cared for and softened the blow to young James knowing who he was. Specifically, K neuralyzes young J/James, telling him that his father was a hero and a great man, then walks with him along the beach holding his hand.

J returns to the present day, where he meets up with his partner at the usual diner. There, he shows K his father’s pocket watch. The senior agent, in return, tells him it was an honor to have met him that fateful day. As they leave the diner, Griffin – who is a few seats away, tells the viewer that all is well with the world, except for an inevitable asteroid impact on Earth because K forgot to leave a tip. But when K returns to leave his tip, the asteroid collides with a satellite, thus avoiding the catastrophe.

REVIEW:

I remember when the original Men in Black came out and I was blown away by not only how different it was, but how it paid homage to classic sci-fi, and had some reflective moments, as well, which made it a high quality film. Some people weren’t so thrilled with Men in Black 2, but I liked it. Many years later, the men in black have returned for Men in Black 3, a film that many thought would never happen. So, the question is, should it have just been something fans of the series wished for or was it worth the long wait?

I can say with strong conviction that fans of this franchise won’t be disappointed, for the most part, but at the same time, there is just something that doesn’t feel right. I am chalking it up to the time between films, but I’m sure there are those out there that are going to say this was just forced into production, which it may very well have been, I’m just not going to use that as an excuse.

So, what did I like?

Josh Brolin. This guy nails Tommy Lee Jones’ Agent K. Everyone has been blown away by his spot on interpretation of Jones. I know that I sure was.

What’s old is new. Yes, New York is a huge city, but there are only so many places you can fight aliens there. How do you solve this problem? Simple, just go back in time and Bam!….everything is new again.

Literal leaping. I found it kind of funny that in order to travel through time (they call it time jumping), J, or whoever, had to literally take a leap off a building to do it. It reminded me of the leap of faith from the Assassin’s Creed games, only without the eagle screech when he did it.

Celebrity cameos. In the previous films, and you may have missed this if you blinked, there were certain cameos of celebrities whom the tabloids claimed were aliens at one time or another, such as Sylvester Stallone and Michael Jackson, who actually has a small speaking role. This film keeps with that tradition, as we see Lady Gaga on that list twice. Come on, you know you can’t help but think she’s an alien!

Gone, but not forgotten. I am so glad they didn’t just random;y change the head of MIB. Well, they sort of did, but they wrote it in that he died, which wasn’t a bad way to go. I do have to wonder why he didn’t come back, though. May have something to do with his legal issues, more than anything else.

Not all roses. It isn’t very often that time travel flicks bring up the topic of race relations, but they make an attempt to bring it up here, if ever so briefly. Granted, 1969 was a lot better place as far as racial tensions go than 1869, but it still is a far cry from 2012. It was nice of them to touch on the topic, and since this is a comedy, they didn’t dwell on it too long, or make it a major point. It got just the right amount of attention.

What didn’t I like?

No more familiar faces. The worms were back, briefly, but what about Geebs and Frank? Was there really a need to not have them around? At least we got a glimpse of Frank, albeit a creepy one, in a giant photo that hangs over J’s bed.

Female agents. I honestly wonder if they brought in Emma Thompson/Alice Eve just to have a female agent, since the past couple of films have had the whole damsel in distress thing. The problem with bringing them in, though, is that they don’t really add anything, but rather just seem to be a pretty face that K had a crush on (yet she had no mention in either of the previous films, or the cartoon, if I”m not mistaken).

Emptiness. I wasn’t planning on seeing this in 3D, but traffic had me running late and I had no choice since I missed the start of the last 2D showing. I belive this will be the film that unseats The Avengers for the #1 spot (I’m hoping so…rather than that abomination of Snow White that is coming out next week starring Kristen no talent Stewart), but the theater was literally empty, with the exception of one family. A few people trickled in, but it was far from full.

Lost art of villainy. In the previous films, the major villain hasn’t exactly the most sympathetic of characters, especially Edgar. However, this Boris the Animal is nothing more than psychotic, overacting comic foil. Sure, he actually was fairly capable villain, but he was a bit too over-the-top for my taste.

Family ties. I don’t know, the whole thing in the last few minutes about the family thing seemed kind of forced in there. Yes, it is mentioned early on, but you would think that was nothing more than just something they randomly said. I wasn’t really a fan of them shoehorning in this back story of J, especially in the last 5 minutes of the film, and to top it all off, they made it seem as if K has been basically watching over him all this time. That could have been a good story, yes, but not for this film.

Men in Black 3 lacks the magic and whimsy of the two films the preceded it, but it still manages to keep the audience interested and entertained. I don’t know if it was worth spending the money to see in theaters, especially in 3D, but it is worth seeing. I highly recommend it. There aren’t too many films that come out today that are like this…lighthearted fun. So, sit back and enjoy the ride!

4 out of 5 stars

 

Ali G Indahouse

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on May 23, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Ali G is the leader of Da West Staines Massiv, a fictional gang composed of a group of wannabe gangsters from Staines (a suburban town in north Surrey, to the west of London); their chief rivals are Da East Staines Massiv. Ali and Da West Staines Massiv are heartbroken to learn that their beloved local leisure centre (where they like to chill out and also where Ali teaches his “Keep it Real” classes) will be demolished by the local council. Ali and his friends decide to protest this injustice. After he goes on a hunger strike and is spotted chained to some railings by the nefarious Chancellor of the Exchequer/Deputy Prime Minister David Carlton (Charles Dance), he is drawn into a world of seedy political intrigue, as the Deputy Prime Minister tries to use Ali as a tool to destroy the Prime Minister’s credibility. Ali is put forward as a candidate to be the next MP for Staines in a crucial by-election and manages to alienate most who cross his path, including feminists and the elderly. During a debate with his rival candidate, Ali tries to insult his rival by claiming that he “sucked off a horse”. Unknown to Ali and the public, it turns out that the rival did indeed do such a thing, and trying to explain it away, he claims when he was out hunting with a friend he slipped, and his mouth landed on a horse’s penis, which due to the mating season was erect. Ali then wins.

Although originally seeming out of his depth as a Member of Parliament, Ali’s bizarre behaviour and solutions seem to actually work. He visits a Customs checkpoint in Dover, as a delegate compiling a report (though all he does is steal confiscated pornography and drugs). Through ideas such as making more “relatable” education and selectively ensuring the immigration of attractive (or “fit”) women into the UK, Ali becomes incredibly popular, meeting the Prime Minister’s intentions and bringing his percentage lead in the polls up twenty two percent. With this the Prime Minister offers to save Ali’s leisure centre. First though, Ali accompanies the Prime Minister to a United Nations peace conference to avert war between the central African states of Chad and Burkina Faso. The USA and Russia back opposite countries and both threaten nuclear attacks. It gets to the point where World War III is almost declared when Ali sneaks into the catering area and puts an entire bag of marijuana, which he had stolen from Customs earlier, into the delegates’ tea and orders that they be served it right away. He throws the empty bag into a nearby rubbish bin. A side-effect is that the two opposing African presidents become allies (in fact they begin to kiss lovingly). The Prime Minister says that Ali has saved the world. However, Carlton’s secretary Kate Hedges figures out what Ali has done and retrieves the empty marijuana bag (which has “Ali’s stash. DO NOT NICK” written on the back), which she mails to the press. Upon his return to the UK, Ali is forced to leave parliament.

Before the Leisure Centre can be saved, a video emerges of Ali and his girlfriend having sex in the Prime Minister’s bedroom at Chequers. As Ali was wearing items of the Prime Minister’s clothing at the time, the media believe the video details the Prime Minister with a prostitute, forcing his resignation. This results in Deputy Prime Minister David Carlton being made Prime Minister. Carlton, who despises Ali, orders the destruction of the aforementioned leisure centre. He has also bought all available real estate in Staines in the knowledge that the town is to be destroyed to make way for a new terminal for Heathrow Airport, which will make him super wealthy. After turning down an offer to have sex with Kate Hedges, in exchange for “keeping his mouth shut” about the videotape, Ali and the West Staines Massiv must race against time to find the master copy of the CCTV tape proving the former Prime Minister’s innocence, extending the olive branch to all the gangs all over Staines and neighbouring Berkshire (even to the East Staines Massiv) to help them break into the vaults and retrieve the said tape. They do this successfully and manage to reinstate the original Prime Minister, save the Leisure Centre, and all live happily ever after when Ali is posted as the British ambassador to Jamaica. Staines is saved from destruction, with the reinstated Prime Minister declaring that Slough is to be destroyed instead.

REVIEW:

I toyed around with the idea of going to see The Dictator this past weekend, but opted to save my money and see Men in Black III this coming weekend. Hopefully, I won’t regret that decision. In the meantime, a friend of mine recommended I watch The Ali G Show, as it showcases Sacha Boren Cohen at his finest. I couldn’t find it on-line, though Netflix does have it, just not streaming, and I’m just not into renting entire series from them. As a consolation, for lack of a better term, I did find Ali G Indahouse. The question is, should I have just watched the show instead?

So, what worked?

Comedy, as advertised. Some people may find this flick offensive, but I actually thought it was pretty funny. Of course, if you’ve ever seen any of Cohen’s films, then you know this is how he works.

Committment. One thing that can be said about this flick is that it commits to the gag of Ali G “wannabe gangsta” persona, even when he becomes part of the political landscape. Other films would have probably made him change to fit the “norm”. I think the non-change is what made this film so enjoyable. It is such a shame that we don’t have anyone like that in today’s politics.

What you wouldn’t expect. Character actors such as Michael Gambon and Martin Freeman star alongside Cohen and in roles that are a bit out of their comfort zone, well maybe not.

What didn’t I like?

Hot, but wasted. Kate Beckinsale’s look-alike, Rhona Mitra, plays a fairly major role as some kind of secretary/assistant, but for some reason, they don’t really use her to full potential (although getting her to nearly strip down was nice).

Forgotten plot device. It takes about 30 minutes for this film to finally get to the plot, which I can somewhat live with. However, there is this secondary plot involving the youth center that is merely touched on and used more as a blackmail device than anything else. I don’t know, for me, it felt as if they could have done something more with it, especially at the end.

Large members. There are a few scenes where we see Ali G’s large member. Maybe it is just me, but I just don’t think there was a reason to show this, especially more than once!

Ali G Indahouse is not one of those films that one will be watching over and over again, but it is one of those flicks that is entertaining every now and then. To quote a friend of mine, this is “a good time…if you’re drunk”. I don’t highly recommend it, but I won’t lose any respect for you if you decide to give it a shot. Don;t forget to look for a certain cameo about halfway through. I won’t say who it is, but when you see him, you’ll know.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars