Archive for June, 2012

The Addams Family

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Gomez Addams (Raúl Juliá) laments the 25-year absence of his brother Fester, who disappeared after the two had a falling-out. Gomez’s lawyer Tully Alford (Dan Hedaya) owes money to loan shark Abigail Craven (Elizabeth Wilson), and notices that her son Gordon (Christopher Lloyd) closely resembles Fester. Tully proposes that Gordon pose as Fester to infiltrate the Addams household and find the hidden vault where they keep their vast riches. Tully and his wife Margaret (Dana Ivey) attend a séance at the Addams home led by Grandmama (Judith Malina) in which the family tries to contact Fester’s spirit. Gordon arrives, posing as Fester, while Abigail poses as psychiatrist Dr. Pinder-Schloss and tells the family that Fester had been lost in the Bermuda Triangle for the past 25 years.

Gomez, overjoyed to have Fester back, takes him to the family vault to view home movies from their childhood. Gordon learns the reason for the brothers’ falling-out: Gomez was jealous of Fester’s success with women, and wooed the conjoined twins Flora and Fauna Amore away from him out of envy. Gomez starts to suspect that “Fester” is an impostor when he is unable to recall important details about their past. Gordon attempts to return to the vault, but is unable to get past a booby trap. Gomez’s wife Morticia (Anjelica Huston) reminds “Fester” of the importance of family amongst the Addamses and of their vengeance against those who cross them. Fearing that the family is getting wise to their con, Abigail (under the guise of Dr. Pinder-Schloss) convinces Gomez that his suspicions are due to displacement.

Gordon grows closer to the Addams family, particularly the children Wednesday (Christina Ricci) and Pugsley (Jimmy Workman), whom he helps to prepare a swordplay sequence for a school play. The Addamses throw a large party with their extended family and friends to celebrate Fester’s return, during which Abigail plans to break into the vault. Wednesday overhears Abigail and Gordon discussing their scheme, and escapes them by hiding in the family cemetery. Tully learns that Fester, as the eldest brother, is the executor of the Addams estate and therefore technically owns the entire property. With the help of the Addamses’ neighbor Judge George Womack (Paul Benedict), who Gomez has repeatedly angered by hitting golf balls at his house, Tully procures a restraining order against the family banning them from the estate. Gomez attempts to fight the order in court, but Judge Womack rules against him out of spite.

While Abigail, Gordon, and Tully try repeatedly and unsuccessfully to get past the booby trap blocking access to the vault, the Addams family is forced to move into a motel and find jobs. Morticia tries at being a preschool teacher, Wednesday and Pugsley sell toxic lemonade, and Thing—the family’s animate disembodied hand—becomes a courier. Gomez, despondent, sinks into depression and lethargy.

Morticia returns to the Addams home to confront Fester and is captured by Abigail and Tully, who torture her in an attempt to learn how to access the vault. Thing observes this and informs Gomez, who gathers the family and rushes to Morticia’s rescue. Abigail threatens Morticia’s life if Gomez does not surrender the family fortune. Fed up with his mother’s behavior and constant berating, Gordon turns against Abigail. Using a magical book which projects its contents into reality, he unleashes a hurricane in the house, which strikes his own head with lightning and launches Tully and Abigail out a window and into open graves dug for them by Wednesday and Pugsley.

Gordon turns out to actually have been Fester all along, having suffered amnesia after being lost in the Bermuda Triangle and turning up in Miami, where Abigail had taken him in. The lightning strike has restored his memory and he is enthusiastically welcomed back into the Addams household. With the family whole again, Morticia informs Gomez that she is pregnant.

REVIEW:

When this movie first came out, all I know about the Addams were that they were some creepy family that occasionally popped up in old Scooby Doo cartoons. After this was released, though, I remember that there was a new cartoon and the original show started airing again. However, it wasn’t until recently that I finished every episode. Does The Addams Family stack up to the original?

What did I like?

Faithfulness. If you’ve ever seen the original series, then you will notice that these characters, for the most part, stay faithful to their classic TV roots. This isn’t to say that there aren’t exceptions, for instance, it seems as if Wednesday and Pugsley’s mannerisms have been switched a bit, with a bit more cruelty added to her, and then of course Fester is different, but that is part of the plot. There is even a scene with Gomez’s trains. The only thing missing was the stock footage of Kitty Kat.

Wednesday. Speaking of Wednesday, this is the film that brought us Christina Ricci, and for that I am ever so grateful.

Casting. I have to say that they got the perfect casting for the most part. Raul Julia as Gomez is every bit as flamboyant, albeit more subdued than John Astin. Anjelica Huston captures everything we know and love about Morticia (except for those killer curves!!!) Fester, for all the changes they’ve made, seems to be the same old Fester, though it is kind of hard to tell since he isn’t the same guy as the series.

Story. I liked the story for the most, though, I think it would have been much better without the focus being on Fester so much.

What didn’t I like?

Change is not always for the best. They changed the relationship with Fester and Gomez to make them brothers, whereas in the original TV series he is Morticia’s uncle. I am not sure which is the true relationship.

Lurch Itt. Two of the major characters in every incarnation this family has been in have been Lurch and Cousin Itt. This one, though, relegates Lurch to a couple of scenes, none of which allow him to say his famous line, “You rang?” As for Cousin Itt, he pops up for a couple of scenes, which isn’t bad, since he isn’t in every episode, but a little more of Itt would have been nice.

Bermuda triangle induced amnesia. So, Fester apparently gets lost in the Bermuda Triangle and gets amnesia. That sounds a bit soap opera-ish, but I can live with it. My issue is how they rushed the explanation at the film’s end. It reminded me a bit of how they used to wrap up thing in the final scenes of The A-Team back when it was on the air. It just seemed tacked on to tie up some loose ends, but you really could have lived without it.

The Addams Family is a good flick that will please everyone, including those of us that prefer things to stay close to the source material. As a matter of fact, the show didn’t even stick this close to the source material. While I would have liked for it to have been more slapstick comedic, it works for what it is. Man, here’s a thought…imagine if Tim Burton would have directed this. Wow! Anyway, I highly recommend this to everyone!

4 out of 5 stars

 

Slackers

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on June 27, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Dave Goodwin (Devon Sawa), Sam Schecter (Jason Segel), and Jeff Davis (Michael Maronna) are best friends who spent almost four years at Holden University scamming their way through college, and for the most part, get away with it. Just as they are about to graduate, their schemes are foiled by Ethan Dulles (Jason Schwartzman), the campus geek, after witnessing Dave cheating on an exam. Ethan threatens to expose the trio unless they try to hook him up with his dream girl, the beautiful Angela Patton (Jaime King).

REVIEW:

I’ve been called a slacker before, but I can honestly say that I’ve never been the kind of slacker like the guys in this film, Slackers. I have seen some worthless layabouts in my day, some have even been my roommates and friends, but these guys take the cake! Were the exploits of these guy enough to warrant watching this film?

What did I like?

Scheme. The blackmail scheme that was cooked up by Jason Schwartzman was actually pretty cool, especially since all he wanted was a date with the girl of his dreams.

Dorms. Holy hand grenade! If my dorm room would have looked like that, I never would have left…until I flunked out of school, that is. Still, this room that these guys are in is about the size of 3 of the rooms I’ve been in and then there is all the stuff they have in there. Wow…just wow!!!

Before he was big. In an early appearance, we get to see a young (and thinner) Jason Segel. He’s still as funny, but I can’t help but wonder where the rest of the crew from How I Met Your Mother were.

What didn’t I like?

Cameos. There are 3 notable cameos, Gina Gershon, Cameron Diaz, and Mamie van Doren. Now, Gershon and especially Diaz had great scenes, but Mamie van Doren (who actually had the longest scene of the 3) just seemed to be relegated to some trashiness. I felt bad seeing her reduced to this kind of drivel.

Story. This is one plot that you cannot get into. It is bad, there really isn’t much else to say about it.

Creepy. I have to give Jason Schwartzman credit, he plays a good, creepy little bastard, but when you throw in the tantrums he was throwing and then that little hair doll he had, it is enough to creep you out.

Slackers is not something you should even think about seeing, unless you’re just in the mood for some early 2000 nostalgia, and even then, there are plenty of other films that you can choose from that are far superior to this. I found this film severely lacking in almost every category and, as such, I think you would be best served avoiding this thing like the plague!

1 1/2 out of 5 stars

Dodge City

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Westerns with tags , , , , , on June 27, 2012 by Mystery Man

dodgecity

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The action of the film starts with Colonel Dodge (Henry O’Neill) arriving on the first train and subsequently opening the new railroad line that links Dodge City with the rest of the world. A few years later, Dodge City has turned into the “longhorn cattle center of the world and wide-open Babylon of the American frontier, packed with settlers, thieves and gunmen — the town that knew no ethics but cash and killing”. In particular, it is Jeff Surrett (Bruce Cabot) and his gang who kill, steal, cheat and, generally, control life in Dodge City without ever being brought to justice. As Surrett has installed one of his puppets as sheriff, the other citizens’ hands are tied when it comes to arresting any of the evildoers.

Dodge’s friend Wade Hatton (Errol Flynn), a lone cowboy who was instrumental in bringing the railroad to Dodge City, is now on his way to the town leading a trek of settlers from the East coast. At Hatton’s side is his old companion Rusty (Alan Hale), who is prepared to stay with him through thick and thin. Among the settlers are beautiful Abbie Irving (Olivia de Havilland) and her irresponsible brother Lee (William Lundigan), who, drunk, causes a stampede (which eventually kills him) and is shot by Hatton in self-defense. When the group arrive in Dodge City, Hatton is confronted with the full extent of the anarchy which is dictating everyday life there. Asked by anxious citizens — Abbie’s uncle, Dr. Irving (Henry Travers) among them — to be the new sheriff, Hatton politely declines, saying he is not cut out for this kind of job.

Hatton changes his mind when, during a school outing, a young boy, Harry Cole is inadvertently killed by Surrett and his men. The new sheriff and his deputy — Rusty of course — have a hard time not just fighting the criminals but also convincing all the farmers who have been wronged by Surrett that mob rule (“Come on, boys, let’s take ’em out to the plaza”) is out of the question: When Yancey (Victor Jory), one of Surrett’s thugs, is in jail, Hatton has to protect him against the furious men outside who, not caring for Yancey’s right to a fair trial, want to take the law into their own hands and lynch him right then and there.

In the end, Hatton succeeds in both overwhelming and catching the baddies and winning Abbie’s heart. Everything has been prepared for a quiet family life in newly civilized Dodge City, but Hatton is asked by Colonel Dodge to clean up Virginia City, Nevada, another railroad town more dangerous than Dodge City had ever been. Understanding how much Wade is needed to settle the West, a loving Abbie heartily suggests she and her new husband join the next wagon train for their new life together.

REVIEW:

The king of swashbuckling films takes a stab at being a rugged, western hero in Dodge City. Having never been to the place or knowing very little about it, this little history lesson, of sorts, was a nice bonus, but was the entire film worth watching?

What did I like?

The story. I know, I know. It seems as if in every review I’m talking about the story/plot, but a good story makes for a good film. The plight of the cowboy who just wants to do the right thing is the stuff all good westerns are made of.

Trains. I seem to have trains on the brain, or maybe it is just because of the epic scene from Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, but I really liked seeing the train scene. I think the next western I’ll watch will have something to do with train robbers.

I am the law. He may not have been the most willing sheriff, but Hatton sure did do a great job cleaning up the town. We need more lawmen like this nowadays, if you ask me.

What didn’t work?

Errol Flynn. He is a great actor, maybe a bit of a ham, though, but I just couldn’t take him seriously as a cowboy. He has too nice of a face and that mustache just throws a monkey wrench into any hopes he has of being pictured as anything other than a pirate or Robin Hood.

Double vision. I felt like this was two different pictures. I say this because the first half had the feel of the kind of western that includes cattle rustling and such, whereas the second half was more of the vengeance, protect the town kind of flick.

Chemistry or lazy casting. Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland have great chemistry, but it seems like every film of his I see she is the leading lady. I swear, you’d think the two of them were married. Could they have not cast a different leading lady? No, I’m not saying she was bad in this role, just that it is more of the same.

Dodge City is a fairly good film. I f I’m not mistaken, this is the picture that ushered in the era of westerns. If that was the case, then this is a good way to start and move on to bigger and better films of this genre. I don’t highly recommend it, but this is a good watch, so give it a shot sometime.

3 out of 5 stars

The Vampire Lovers

Posted in Classics, Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , on June 27, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!)

In early 19th century Styria, a beautiful blonde (Kirsten Lindholm) in a diaphanous gown materialises from a misty graveyard. Encountering the Baron Hartog (Douglas Wilmer), a vampire hunter out to avenge the death of his sister, the girl is revealed as a vampire when her breast is seared by his crucifix. Baring her fangs to attack the Baron, she is swiftly decapitated.

Many years later, a sultry dark-haired lady leaves her daughter Marcilla (Ingrid Pitt) in the care of General von Spielsdorf (Peter Cushing) and his family at their Styrian mansion. Marcilla quickly befriends the General’s daughter, Laura (Pippa Steel). Laura suffers nightmares that she is being attacked, and her health deteriorates until she dies. Marcilla vanishes from the General’s home.

Faking a carriage break-down, Marcilla’s mother leaves her (now using the alias Carmilla) at the residence of a Mr Morton. Here, Carmilla befriends and seduces Morton’s daughter Emma (Madeline Smith) but her need to feed overcomes her emotional attachment and Emma too begins to fade. Emma has nightmares of being pierced over the heart, and her breast shows tiny wounds. Emma’s governess, Mme. Perrodot (Kate O’Mara) also falls victim to Carmilla’s erotic blandishments and becomes her willing tool. Some in the household, the butler and a doctor, suspect what might be happening, especially in the wake of several local girls’ suddenly dying. But Carmilla kills each one. All the while, a mysterious man in black (clearly also a vampire) watches events from a distance, smiling (his presence is never explained).

After Carmilla kills the butler, having convinced him that Mme. Perrodot is a vampire then persuaded him (with her womanly charms) to remove the garlic protecting Emma, Carmilla goes to Emma’s bedroom. She says she must go away, but is taking Emma with her. A desperate and sick Madame begs Carmilla to take her with her. Carmilla kills her, in front of a horrified Emma. Emma is barely rescued by a young man named Carl (Jon Finch) who fashions a makeshift cross from his dagger. Carmilla flees to her nearby ancestral castle, now a ruin.

All this coincides with the arrival of the General, who brings with him a now-aged Baron Hartog. They find Carmilla’s grave, where she sleeps. Her eyes open, and interestingly enough she makes no move to defend herself. The General lifts a stake—and back in her bedchamber Emma screams “No!”—then drives it into Carmilla’s heart. He then cuts off her head. Carmilla’s portrait on the wall decays, showing now a fanged skeleton instead of a beautiful young woman.

REVIEW:

Pay no attention to the movie poster, The Vampire Lovers is not some kind of nymphomaniac vampire flick. Instead it is a tale of the vampire queen Carmilla, though I’m not exactly sure if this is how it is originally told.

What did I like?

Mystery. You might not remember this, since almost every vampire film nowadays all but forgets vampire lore, but vampires are really mysterious creatures. This film allows Carmilla to drift about as an enigma, which is what vampires are.

Beauty. Ingrid Pitt is one beautiful woman. Since this is how Carmilla is described, they did a good job of choosing the right actress to play her. She reminds me alot of Monica Bellucci, or maybe that should be the other way around ,since this was made in 1970.

Shadowy figure. All throughout the film, there is this creepy figure on a horse hanging around in the shadows. His purpose is never made clear, but I believe he is Dracula and is watching over the events waiting for the right moment (there are 2 sequels to the film).

What didn’t I like?

Is she or isn’t she? There are quite a few lesbionic tones to the film. Like most straight men, I’m all for seeing sexy lesbians on the screen, but I’m also of the believe that if you’re gonna lez out, then do it and stop teasing!!!

Random hero. Out of nowhere, as the film is coming to the conclusion, we see this guy riding towards the castle, and with a purpose. For those of you that want the girl to be saved, then this is more than likely up your alley. However, for me, I would have liked things to have gone another way. Why is there always some random guy who shows up and saves the day, not that it needed saving. Carmilla wasn’t exactly trying to take over the world or anything.

Gray. The ending scene is very reminiscent of Dorian Gray (book or movie). While I liked it there, for this it just seemed to be nothing more than some sort of unnecessary visual to end things, especially since we only see this painting one other time!

The Vampire Lovers isn’t a bad film, per se, but it isn’t anything write home about, either. As far as lesbian vampire flicks go, you’d do better checking out Vampyres. This just comes off as an average vampire flick, but at least we get a real vampire, and not some glittery abomination!

3 out of 5 stars

Red Tails

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 24, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1944, after enduring racism throughout their recruitment and training in the Tuskegee training program, the 332d Fighter Group of young African American USAAF fighter pilots are finally sent into combat in Italy, although flying worn-out Curtiss P-40 Warhawk aircraft. Chafing at their ground attack missions against trains and enemy ground transport, the Tuskegee Airmen recognize that they may never fight the Luftwaffe in fighter-to-fighter combat. The tight-knit group of Joe “Lightning” Little (David Oyelowo), Martin “Easy” Julian (Nate Parker), Ray “Ray Gun” or “Junior” Gannon (Tristan Wilds), and Samuel “Joker” George (Elijah Kelley) under the guidance of Major Emanuel Stance (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) and Col. A.J. Bullard (Terrence Howard), face a white military bureaucracy still resistant to accepting black flyers as equals.

Strife develops between roommates and best friends, Easy and Lightning, each of whom are battling their own inner demons; Lightning is a hotheaded and reckless pilot who takes too many risks, while Easy is an alcoholic prone to self doubt. After returning to base from a mission, Lightning spies a pretty Italian girl named Sofia (Daniela Ruah), becomes instantly infatuated with her, and starts a relationship.

Meanwhile, Stance is able to secure a chance to “light up the board” when the Tuskegee Airmen are chosen to support the Allied landings at Anzio, Italy known as Operation Shingle. There, they battle Messerschmitt Bf 109 fighters led by a German ace pilot they nickname, “Pretty Boy” (Lars van Riesen), scoring their first aerial victories over the enemy, as well as destroying a German airfield. However, Ray Gun is injured during the battle and suffers impaired vision in one of his eyes. Ray Gun begs Easy to keep him on the flight roster who ultimately relents and allows him to keep flying.

Bullard is then approached by the USAAF Bomber Command, who are impressed with the Tuskegee Airmen’s performance and ask him to use his fighters as Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bomber escorts due to unacceptably high casualties among bomber crews. Bullard accepts on the condition that his unit be supplied with the new North American P-51 Mustang. The tails of the aircraft are painted bright red and become the unofficial name of the outfit. Bullard noted that the flaw of previous escort fighters is that they would recklessly pursue German fighters at the cost of protecting the bombers, so he orders his pilots to stay with the bombers at all costs. Their first escort mission is a success, with the 332nd downing multiple Luftwaffe aircraft without the loss of a single bomber. However, Ray Gun is shot down and captured while Deke crash lands and nearly dies.

As a result of his injuries, Deke is discharged, and Ray Gun is assumed to be dead. Easy realizes it was his fault Ray Gun was allowed to fly, blames himself and spirals deeper into alcoholism. Lightning, worried about his friend, makes a deal with Easy; he will follow orders and fly less recklessly as long as Easy remains sober. Meanwhile, attitudes against the Tuskegee Airmen begin to change as they earn the bomber crews’ respect, even being allowed into the “whites only” officer’s club. Ray Gun is sent to a POW camp, where he is recruited by a group of POWs who are planning to escape. The escape attempt is successful, but some of the POWs are spotted by a guard so Ray Gun draws the Germans’ attention while the other POWs escape. One of the POWs manages to reach the 332nd’s base and informs them about Ray Gun’s sacrifice, assuming him to be dead. Later, Lightning finally proposes to Sofia and she accepts.

The Tuskegee Airmen are then tasked with escorting the first American bombers to attack Berlin. However, despite their P-51s having more than enough fuel for the trip, the 332nd is only asked to escort the bombers on the first leg of their journey due to propaganda reasons. But the fighter squadron meant to relieve the 332nd never arrives, and Easy makes the decision to stay with bombers all the way. They are then attacked by Pretty Boy, now leading a flight of revolutionary Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighters. Despite being outclassed by the jet fighters’ superior speed and 30 mm cannon, the Tuskegee Airmen are able to shoot down some of the Me 262s. Pretty Boy manages to get on Easy’s tail and is about to shoot him down, but at the last moment, Lightning attacks and kills Pretty Boy in a head-on attack. Victorious, but mortally wounded, he eventually crashes. Easy is then forced to inform Sofia about Lightning’s death and consequently overcomes his alcoholism for good. At Lightning’s funeral, Ray Gun miraculously returns, having survived his escape from German captivity.

Ultimately, the Tuskegee Airmen are awarded the Presidential Unit Citation in honor of their achievements.

REVIEW:

Growing up as an Air Force brat, one can’t help but become enamored with airplanes…or become more and more bitter with the sound of them everytime you go near the base. Even though I have a fear of heights and flying, I still was one of those that loved planes. Add to that my love for WWII, and Red Tails should be right up my alley, right?

What did I like?

It was made. There have been film about the Tuskegee Airmen made before, but most have been documentaries or those ultra-serious dramas. It was good to get an action flick on these fine pilots, and that it was made by a prominent filmmaker, George Lucas. The fact that he went out of his way and stuck his neck out to make a film about African-American pilots earns some respect he’s lost with his constant tinkering of the holy trilogy back.

No Spike. Thank goodness this was not made by Spike Lee! Had he directed this, I’m sure this would have been another “hate whitey’ film. Instead, this director mostly downplayed and ignored the racism that existed. Sure, he touched on it here and there. It would be pointless to make this film without doing so, but that stuff is not the focal point of this film, the flying is what matters. If you want that racial stuff, go watch one of those documentaries.

Flying high. The flying scenes are what most people are watching this for, and boy, are they worth it! If there is one thing George Lucas knows how to do, it is film some great aeronautical aerobatics, as we’ve seen in the holy trilogy, most notably Star Wars (which it has been said he used as a basis for these scenes). Again, I’m a little biased as I love seeing these type of planes in dogfights, one of the reasons I loved Pearl Harbor as well. The only thing missing was a plane painted with a shark face.

Now that we’ve found love. Along with all the action, there is a little  love story. It really hits its peak at the film’s end. On top of that, we get a real sense of camaraderie between the pilots when one of them nearly dies and another crashes and is captured.

They are out there. Last week, I read an article about an upcoming superhero movie about Black Panther. The problem was that they had no idea who would play him. The usual suspects are too old. Well, here are a bunch of nominees, one of them even has that build and natural British/African accent.

What didn’t I like?

Bad banter. *SIGH* I have never heard so many clichéd, stereotypical lines in my life. The most obvious place was in the final flying scene. These lines were so bad, there were almost offensive.

Terrence and Cuba. Terrence Howard is one of my favorite actors. I’m still fuming over how they replaces him with the far inferior Don Cheadle for Iron Man 2. He does a decent job here, but he seems to be trying too hard and it comes off as nearly robotic. Cuba Gooding, Jr., on the other hand could really use his performance here to get back onto the A list, or at least he could if there were more there. As it is, he has a few good scenes, but nothing to write home about. Come to think about it, isn’t it weird that some of the more prominent African-American actors such as Denzel Washington and Samuel L. Jackson, aren’t in this?

Feeling. I was trying to feel something for these characters, but it just wasn’t happening. As a matter of fact, with the exception of the rebellious pilot (you know there has to be one), they don’t really give you anything to go on for most of these guys, except that one of them has a bit of a drinking problem. This is something that they could have done a better job with, in my opinion. I’m not saying we need to know the backstory of each and every pilot, but something, anything, more would have nice.

Unequal. For all the praise that can be heaved onto the flying scenes, the same cannot be said for this story. I realize that Lucas wasn’t really trying to focus on something dramatic, which is fine with me, but there could have been something for the audience to sink our teeth into. As it is, we get these teases of a story here and there, but nothing is really flashed out.

Red Tails is a fun war flick. Chances are that after you watch this, you’ll go look up the Tuskegee Airmen, or maybe even watch one of those other films about them, which is one of the major reasons this was made, to bring awareness to these forgotten pilots. I loved this film, but it does have a few flaws that just cannot be overlooked. Still, I highly recommend you check it out!

4 out of 5 stars

Love’s Kitchen

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

PLOT:

Consumed by grief in the wake of his wife’s tragic death, London chef Rob Haley (Dougray Scott) leaves the big city behind to open a modest country restaurant, and finds love where he least expects it. After Rob’s wife died, he lost his passion for cooking. His confidence subsequently destroyed by a scathing restaurant review, Rob receives a much welcomed visit from his old friend and colleague Gordon Ramsay (playing himself), and summons the courage to pick up the pieces of his shattered life. With his daughter and loyal staff by his side, the once-proud chef sets his sights on a small village, and begins transforming a typical pub into a food-lover’s paradise. Rob never expected the move would lead to romance, but after meeting American food critic Kate (Claire Forlani), his life quickly starts to look up again. Later, when Kate’s troubled past threatens to sink his happy future, Rob learns that sometimes the last people you expected to stand by your side have a way of becoming the ones you cherish most in life.

REVIEW:

I’m sure you haven’t heard of Love’s Kitchen. I know I hadn’t, but Netflix recommended it after I watched Police Academy: Mission to Moscow. This film was not well received by the British media. Some even went so far as to call it “the worst film ever made”. I won’t go that far, but it is pretty underwhelming, to say the least.

What did I like?

Food, glorious food. I may not be able to cook anything that isn’t microwavable, but I love cooking shows and the like (Rachael Ray, Cat Cora, and Anne Burrell are among my chef crushes). Since the film is about a chef, it is only fitting that food be one of the focal points. The also chose to not get too in depth with the culinary terms, which most of the general public isn’t exactly familiar with.

Single father. While I wished the father could have had a better relationship with his daughter, at least on screen, it was a treat to see Claire Forlani’s character warm up and have a meaningful relationship with her.

Love story. Strip away all the other mess that is going on in this film, such as the obsessive ex-boyfriend, or whatever it was that creepy guy was, and there is a fairly nice love story here.

What I didn’t like.

False advertising. For the few ads and trailers I could find on this flick, the selling point seemed to be Gordon Ramsay. I hate to disappoint you Chef Ramsay fans, but he’s only in here for a few moments in the beginning and a cheesy break the third wall moment at the very end. I realize he’s a big name celebrity, but isn’t the actual star of this film, Dougray Scott, fairly big across the pond? At least he should be big enough to carry a film on his name alone.

Development. The wife dies in the beginning of the film, and the rest of the picture is basically spent mourning her, or using her as a crutch to not move forward. However, she is never really given any development. It is almost as if she isn’t a character. I bet this film would have been much better if they would have taken a few extra minutes to at least give the audience a montage background on her. A good example of killing a character, in a car wreck, no doubt, early on is Save the Last Dance. Maybe these filmmakers should check it out!

Lack of interest. There seemed to be a sever lack of interest on the looks of all these actors. No one seemed to want to be in this film, and that really affected the final product. Of course, with Claire Forlani, you can never really tell.

Final verdict on this flick, you’d be best served to stay out of Love’s Kitchen. There is just something about the sum of all its parts that doesn’t quite add up. I won’t go so far as to say it is the worst film ever made, like the British critics did, but you would do best to avoid this film. I honestly cannot, in good conscience, recommend it.

2 out of 5 stars

 

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 23, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1818, Abraham Lincoln lives in Indiana with his parents, Nancy (Robin McLeavy) and Thomas (Joseph Mawle), who works at a plantation owned by Jack Barts (Marton Csokas). There, Lincoln befriends a young African American boy, William Johnson, and intervenes when he sees Johnson being beaten by a slaver. Because of Lincoln’s actions, Thomas is fired by Barts, who demands that Thomas pay his debts to him. When Thomas refuses, Barts warns him that there are more than one way to collect a debt. That night, Lincoln sees Barts breaking into his house and attacking Nancy. Thomas finds her ill the following day, and she dies shortly afterwards. He blames Barts, and tells Lincoln that he poisoned Nancy.

Nine years later, after Thomas’ death, Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) decides to get revenge against Barts. He attacks Barts at the docks, but Barts overpowers him, revealing himself to be a vampire. However, before Barts can kill him, Lincoln is rescued by a man called Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper), who takes Lincoln to his mansion. There, Sturgess reveals that vampires exist, and offers to teach Lincoln how to become a vampire hunter. Lincoln accepts, and, after 10 years of training, travels to Springfield, Illinois, in 1837, where he begins to slay vampires. During his training, Lincoln is told by Sturgess that the vampires that live in America descend from Adam (Rufus Sewell), a powerful vampire who owns a plantation in New Orleans with his sister, Vadoma (Erin Wasson). Lincoln also learns that vampires often feed off of the slaves. He informs Lincoln of the vampires’ weakness to silver, and presents Lincoln with a silver pocket watch.

In Springfield, Lincoln befriends shopkeeper Joshua Speed (Jimmi Simpson), and falls in love with Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who is also being courted by the politicial Stephen A. Douglas (Alan Tudyk). Barts is one of the vampires living in Springfield, and, upon learning of Lincoln’s presence, he begins to target Mary.

One day, Lincoln receives a visit from Johnson (Anthony Mackie), who now helps freed slaves to escape through the Underground Railroad. Johnson asks for Lincoln’s help to evade bounty hunters who were hired to eliminate him. Lincoln and Johnson defeat the bounty hunters, and Lincoln later tells Mary what happened. She encourages him to fight for his ideals, and Lincoln begins to speak against slavery. Sturgess visits him, and says that he needs to focus on his mission. Sturgess then provides Lincoln with Barts’ location.

Lincoln confronts Barts at a farm, where Barts is mortally wounded. Before dying, Barts reveals that Sturgess is a vampire as well. Lincoln confronts Sturgess, who reveals that, several years before, him and his lover were attacked by Adam, who bit them both. Because Sturgess’ soul wasn’t pure, he became a vampire, and that prevented him from harming his “creator” or any other vampire since as Adam stated, “Only the living can kill the dead”. Since then, Sturgess has been training vampire hunters in an effort to destroy Adam.

Lincoln, disappointed, decides to abandon his mission. However, Adam learns of his activities and captures Johnson in order to lure Lincoln into a trap at his plantation in New Orleans. Lincoln tells Speed the truth and they travel to Adam’s estate, where Lincoln is captured. However, Speed storms into the mansion and rescues Lincoln and Johnson, and the three escape back to Ohio. Lincoln’s watch, however, is left behind and found by Adam.

In Springfield, Lincoln marries Mary and hires Speed as his assistant and Johnson as his valet, allowing Johnson to continue his duties with the Underground Railroad undercover. Sturgess warns Lincoln that slaves are what keeps vampires under control, and if Lincoln interferes with that, there’ll be an uprising, but Lincoln ignores his warnings.

Lincoln defeats Douglas and is elected President of the United States of America. He signs the Emancipation Proclamation and moves to the White House with Mary, where they have a son, William Wallace Lincoln (Cameron M. Brown). Years later, in 1861, Willie is bitten by Vadoma, who leaves the watch behind to mock Lincoln. Sturgess offers to turn Willie into a vampire in order to save him, and although Mary wants him to, Lincoln stops him. Following their son’s death, Lincoln is blamed by his wife.

With the slaves freed, the vampires begin to attack all humans. Lincoln deploys his troops to confront the vampires, but the monsters gain the upper hand because of their supernatural powers. Sturgess tries to convince Lincoln to offer Adam a truce, but Lincoln refuses, and is informed that Adam’s army has repelled Lincoln’s forces in the Battle of Gettysburg. Lincoln then decides to confiscate all the silverware of the area and have it melted in order to produce silver bullets for the soldiers to use in the battlefield. Speed, believing that Lincoln will lead them to death, betrays him and informs Adam that Lincoln will transport the silver to Gettysburg in a train.

Adam and Vadoma watch as Lincoln reconciles with Mary, who leaves with the other slaves, and follow him to the train. Lincoln, Sturgess and Johnson fight Adam, Vadoma and other vampires, who have set a fire a few miles ahead while Speed, his betrayal a ruse, damages the train’s controls, hoping that it will crash against the fire and destroy the vampires. Adam kills Speed and fights Lincoln before being attacked by Sturgess. During the fight, Adam learns that there is no silver in the train, only rocks. Lincoln reveals that he lured Adam into a trap and stabs Adam with the weaponized watch. Lincoln, Johnson and Sturgess then jump out of the train before it explodes.

Adam dies, but Vadoma escapes, locates Mary, who had transported the silver to Gettysburg through the Underground Railroad, and tries to kill Mary there, but Mary kills the vampire first, using a rifle to shoot the silver toy sword of her deceased son, into Vadoma’s forehead.

With their leaders dead, the vampires become uncoordinated, and Lincoln leads the soldiers in a massive ambush. With their silver ammunition, the soldiers destroy the vampires and finally free America of them.

A few months later, on April 14, 1865, Sturgess congratulates Lincoln, revealing that the few remaining vampires have fled to other countries, and tries to convince Lincoln to allow him to turn Lincoln into a vampire, so Lincoln will become immortal and continue to help Sturgess to accomplish great things in the future. Lincoln refuses, and leaves for the theater with Mary, leaving Sturgess behind. That night, although not shown, Lincoln is killed by John Wilkes Booth.

Over a century later, in modern times, Sturgess locates a young man at a bar in Washington, D.C. and approaches him in the same way he once approached Lincoln, revealing that he’s still alive and training vampire hunters.

REVIEW:

With a title like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, people are sure to think one of two things. The first idea is that this is either some kind of farcical nonsense meant to capitalize on this seemingly never-ending vampire craze (at the expense of President Lincoln). The other would be that this is something along the lines of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, just using Abraham Lincoln. Well, if you were wondering which is the truth, the answer is closer to the latter.

When news broke about this film being made, I was skeptical, especially since I had never read the graphic novel. As a matter of fact, I still haven’t. I’ll get around to it before this comes out on DVD, though…maybe.

As I was saying, it seems the title is very off-putting to many people, and may be one of this film’s biggest downfalls if it isn’t successful, which is really a shame. Why is it people can’t get over something so minor as a title? Seems to me there would be other things to concern yourself with about a film rather than the title.

So, what did I like?

Vampires. Remember the days, not so long ago, when vampires were cutthroat, evil beings as opposed to these sparkly, moody things that they apparently are today? Well, if there is one thing that can be said about this flick, is that it brings us some real vampires! It is totally awesome to see cold-hearted, bloodsucking, undead creatures again!

Abe. The vampire hunter stuff aside, most of what you know about Abraham Lincoln is here. They even throw in his honesty, freeing a slave boy, and touch a bit on his political views. I was totally expecting there to be some massive deviation from the history we all know. I can just imagine, though, that some history teachers are hoping and praying this doesn’t become a huge hit. It is hard enough teaching history as it is, can you imagine on a test some question about Lincoln and a kid answers that he was a vampire hunter?

Action. There is plenty of action to go around in this picture. If you’ve seen the trailer for this, then you know that the action is one of, if not the biggest selling point of this flick. There two sequences that really highlight the action, well three, now that I think about it. The first is when Abe is going after his mother’s killer (once he has finally learned how to be a vampire hunter). Jumping around a stampede of horses without losing a beat, or his axe. That was impressive! The second and third scenes involve the villain, Adam, played by Rufus Sewell. At his plantation, Abe gets to show off some slick and impressive moves, and then of course, there is that train  that we’ve been seeing since the very first trailer came out. All of these will have your jaw dropping when you see them!

Acting. The entire cast turn in strong performances, but I was most impressed with newcomer Benjamin Walker (who happens to resemble Liam Neeson) and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. I can’t forget Rufus Sewell, either. The man was just made to play these debonaire, villanous roles that he can really, pardon the pun, sink his teeth into.

Take a look. Walker definitely looks the part of Lincoln, especially when he gets the beard. I’m sure no one reading this blog was around during Lincoln’s time to say whether or not he does a good impersonation of him, but from what I know he seems to have a good hold on the man. This is especially obvious when he is giving speeches, particularly the Gettysburg Address.

What didn’t work?

Silver. This is the second vampire flick I’ve seen, this week, as a matter of fact, where vampires are vulnerable to silver.  Correct me if I’m wrong, but I could have sworn that silver only affected werewolves. I liked how they hearkened this back to Judas and his silver pieces, but I just think they could have gone with something else. Then again, I guess it wouldn’t have worked having a garlic axe, huh?

Pacing. The first half of the film is like a roller coaster. It starts, takes off, and has its ups and downs. The second half, though, is more inconsistent. It doesn’t really seem to be going anywhere until it finally gets there. I wish it was better planned out, but at the same time, it isn’t so horrible that you can’t get over it.

Why? There has to always be that one character who seems to be the guy that is jealous of everything. Usually, though, there is some development to these characters which allows the audience to make sense of why they do what they do. That isn’t the case here, though, as Joshua Speed randomly betrays Lincoln because he “knows it is right.” What kind of sniveling coward saying is that?!? If you’re gonna betray your old friend, then have the balls to do it!

Time waits for no one. I’ve just about had it with this bullet time stuff. It was cool when we first saw it 15 or so years ago, but now filmmakers are just using it because they can. Think back to this year’s The Three Musketeers. They really used it quite liberally, and not necessarily in a good way. Here it happens in every action scene. I don’t think there is a time where Abe is swinging his axe, except for the first few swings at the tree, that isn’t slowed down. If filmmakers are going to continue to use this technique, then they really need to learn some restraint. It almost ruined this film for me, and I’m sure that there are others who weren’t exactly a fan, either.

Tone. Maybe it was just me, but I think this one could have had a not so serious tone. I’m not saying it needed to be a comedy, as some people seem to believe it is, but maybe a joke here and there to lighten the mood. It felt as if they took this too seriously, when they could have just had more fun with the source material. There is a serious Lincoln picture coming out in the near future that is sure to be as serious as a heart attack.

Release date. Who in the world is running the studio that decided it would be a good idea to release the same weekend as a Pixar flick? Say what you want, Brave is almost assuredly going to trounce this film at the box office this weekend. I’m not going to say this shouldn’t have been released during the summer, but I wonder if it might have done better being held off a couple of months? Maybe coming out around Halloween? President’s day?

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a film that delivers on some fun, summer action. Personally, I think it was a bit too serious, but I’m sure there are those out there that think it wasn’t dark and violent enough. Keep in mind, these are probably the same people who think the game Lollipop Chainsaw should be much darker and violent. Doesn’t that make you wonder about our society? Anyway, do I recommend this? Yes. It is a very good film that is unfairly getting judged because people don’t like the title, yet if it was changed, we all know folks would bitch and moan about that, too. You just can’t win for nothing in this world. This is one film that I will be rushing to get on DVD when it comes out in the fall. It is one of the most entertaining films I’ve seen this year. Go check it out!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Godzilla’s Revenge

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , on June 22, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Ichiro is a highly imaginative but lonely latchkey kid growing up in urban (and at that time, polluted) Tokyo. Every day he comes home to his family’s empty apartment. His only friends are a toymaker named Shinpei Inami and a young girl named Sachiko. Every day after school, Ichiro is tormented by a gang of bullies led by a child named Sancho, whom Ichiro has nicknamed “Gabara.” To escape his loneliness, Ichiro sleeps and dreams about visiting Monster Island. During his visit he witnesses Godzilla battle three Kamacuras and Ebirah, a giant sea monster. Ichiro is then chased by a rouge Kamacuras and falls into a deep cave, but luckily avoids being caught by Kamacuras. Shortly afterwards, Ichiro is rescued from the cave by Godzilla’s Son, Minilla. Ichiro quickly learns that Minilla has bully problems too, as he is bullied by a monstrous ogre known as Gabara.

Ichiro is then awoken by Shinpei who informs him that his mother must work late, again. Down on his luck Ichiro goes out to play, but is then frightened by the bullies and finds and explores an abandoned factory. After finding some souvenirs (tubes, a headset, and a wallet with someone’s license), Ichiro leaves the factory after hearing some sirens close by. After Ichiro leaves, two Bank Robbers who were hiding out in the factory learn that Ichiro has found one of their drivers licenses and follow him in order to kidnap him.

Later, Ichiro dreams again and reunites with Minilla. Together they both watch as Godzilla fights Ebirah, Kumonga, and some invading Jets. Then in the middle of Godzilla’s fights, Gabara appears and Minilla is forced to battle him, and after a short and one-sided battle Minilla runs away in fear. Godzilla returns to train Minilla how to fight and use his own atomic ray. However, Ichiro is woken up this time by the Bank Robbers and is taken hostage by them for taking their stuff and as a means of protection from the authorities.

Out of fear and being watched by the thieves, Ichiro calls for Minilla’s help and falls asleep again where he witnesses Minilla being beaten up by Gabara again. Finally, Ichiro helps Minilla fight back at Gabara and eventually Minilla wins, catapulting the bully through the air by a seesaw-like log. Godzilla, who was in the area watching comes to congratulate his son for his victory, but is ambushed by a vengeful Gabara. Luckily after a short brawl, Godzilla beats down Gabara and sends the bully into retreat, never to bother Minilla again. Now from his experiences in his dreams, Ichiro learns how to face his fears and fight back, gaining the courage to outwit the thieves just in time for the police to arrive and arrest them. The next day, Ichiro stands up to Sancho and his gang and wins, regaining his pride and confidence in the process.

REVIEW:

What in the blue hell have they done to Godzilla?!?

Godzilla’s Revenge is actually a misnomer, or should I say, an American re-titling. The actual Japanese title of this film is All Monster’s Attack. The problem with that title is it really has no bearing on the plot.

What did I like?

Story. Believe it or not, I actually did like the story. How often do you hear the word cute associated with a Godzilla flick? It is my understanding, though, that this is aimed more for kids than the usual sci-fi crowd. Don’t ask me why this is, considering how Godzilla is supposedly such a threat. I mean, there aren’t any kiddie Ghidoroh, Mothra, or King Kong flicks out there. Well, I guess you can make the case that Donkey Kong is a kiddie version of King Kong, but he doesn’t have any movies.

Friendship and imagination. One thing that cannot be said about this flick is that it lacks imagination. How else is it possible for this little boy to not only find himself on Monster Island, but also befriending Minya (Minilla in the Japanese versions), son of Godzilla.

What didn’t I like?

Speech. I realize that they needed to make at least one of the monsters audience accessible, but there was just something unsettling about him talking. On top of that, his voice didn’t work for me. I don’t know if it was that bad in the Japanese version, but the American version could sure use some work.

Epic fail. Godzilla has a big fight near the end with a couple of one-off monsters. It is pretty good, but tame by Godzilla standards. If this is supposedly Godzilla’s revenge, as the title states, shouldn’t be laying some major smackage down? I was highly disappointed in this.

Little boy, go home. I found the little boy endearing at first, but as the film went on, he became a bit of a nuisance, for lack of a better word. I believe this was more to do with how this film was aimed, though.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. As with every other Godzilla film, the dubbing is atrocious, but I guess that comes with the territory of bringing a Japanese film over here to America, right?

Costume design. Holy hell these are some horrible monster costumes, especially Godzilla and Minya. Not only are the costumes horrible, but it seems as if the director forgot how big these monsters actually are. WTF?!? How is it that Godzilla appears to be no bigger than a full size adult male and Minya is barely taller than the little boy, yet in every other flick Godzilla is about 80 ft tall (don’t quote me on that) and his son was about the height of a house!

If you’re in the market for a good Godzilla flick, then this isn’t the one for you. There is no way around that fact. However, if you want a Godzilla flick that you can feel good about watching with your kids, then pop in Godzilla’s Revenge. While I don’t highly recommend this to any sane person, as a Saturday or Sunday afternoon flick, this would probably work out pretty good.

3 out of 5 stars

The Skulls

Posted in Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , on June 21, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Luke McNamara (Joshua Jackson) is a student with aspirations to become a lawyer. He attends college (implied to be Yale) along with his girlfriend Chloe (Leslie Bibb) and his best friend Will (Hill Harper). Luke’s friendships hit the rocks when he is invited to join a secret society known as “The Skulls”. After Luke passes the first part of the initiation process, he has a falling out with Chloe when she realizes that he has become a Skull. As a member of the Skulls, Luke is partnered with Caleb Mandrake (Paul Walker), and the two quickly strike up a friendship. Caleb’s father, Litten Mandrake (Craig T. Nelson), is the current Chairman of the Skulls and his partner Senator Ames Levritt (William Petersen), takes an interest in Luke. Eventually Will, who has been conducting research on the Skulls for some time, discovers their secret ritual room. Will gets caught in the room by Caleb and in the ensuing struggle he falls and is knocked unconscious. Caleb is ordered to leave the room by his father, who gets one of his cronies to break Will’s neck. The Skulls manage to move the body and make it look like Will committed suicide in his dorm room.

Luke is greatly troubled by the death of his best friend, especially because Will’s family is the only family he had (due to the death of his parents at a young age), and becomes suspicious that Will was in fact murdered. He initially thinks that Caleb is guilty of the murder, and Caleb thinks that he himself is guilty since he assumed that Will was dead when he left the room. Luke obtains tapes that prove who actually committed the murder and in trying to convince Caleb of the truth (that it was his father who was responsible for Will’s death), Luke realizes how scared Caleb is of his father. Before Luke can show the evidence to police, the tape is switched by a detective and Luke is confined to a mental hospital under the control of the Skulls.

With the help of Ames Levritt and Chloe, Luke manages to escape the hospital and survive an attempt on his life. Luke decides that his only option is to fight the Skulls by their own rules, and “bring war to them”. He challenges Caleb to a duel at the Skulls’ private island, by invoking rule 119. Litten tries to take his son’s place in the duel but is denied the opportunity due to another Skull rule (119b, line 15). After Luke and Caleb take their ten paces and turn around, Luke drops his gun and tries to convince Caleb of the truth and that he is not responsible for Will’s murder. Despite being pressured by Litten to kill Luke, Caleb cannot bring himself to pull the trigger. At this point, Litten loses control, grabs a pistol, and attempts to shoot Luke himself, but before he can fire, Caleb shoots his own father. The wound is not a mortal one, but Caleb, mortified at what he has done, tries to kill himself but is stopped by Luke.

The film ends with Luke’s realization that Senator Levritt waited to help him until he had no other choice but to duel and eliminate his rival (Caleb’s father). Luke becomes disgusted with the order and refuses to participate further, despite threats from Levritt that he will be tracked down someday. As Luke walks away Levritt says, “Well done, son”. It has been speculated that this, along with other incidents in the movie (such as him comparing their backgrounds, Luke’s unknown father situation, and Levritt taking an immediate liking to Luke), that Levritt may be Luke’s father. The final shot of the movie shows Luke reuniting with Chloe.

REVIEW:

Fraternities, sororities, honor societies, government…aren’t these all just various incarnations of secret societies? Have you ever wondered what goes behind the scenes and what it takes to join/be selected by one of these organizations? If you have, then you might want to avoid The Skulls until you actually become a member, since this film tackles the horrors behind the corrupt power they seem to hold.

So, what did I like?

Conspiracy theory. While some critics have said this plot is absurd nonsense, I actually liked it. Perhaps those that didn’t like it are actually members of the society in which this is based on and felt that this film came to close to exposing them. The fact that they not only give us a good look into the perks of this society, but also go into how it all but rules a person’s life (through the deception and deceit of various members), which I felt was very effective.

Working man. I have to give the writer’s credit for giving us a lead character at a college who isn’t there riding on his parents’ coattails. True, he also made for the perfect rival for his “soulmate” who was one of these rich kids. Not only is the lead the good guy, he’s also an athlete (crew), apparently an honor student, and works at least 3 jobs. Add to this the facts that he was once a bit of a street thug and has never known his father, and he makes for quite the interesting character, even if he is played by Joshua Jackson.

Underground. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that a society which is composed of very powerful, successful men has quite the impressive sanctuary. I was taken aback by the sheer beauty and majesty of the place. Such a shame this society of corrupt individuals are able to have such lush accommodations.

What didn’t I like?

Got wood.  I don’t want to say this is bad acting, because it isn’t, but there seems to be a lack of any kind of life in most of these performances. The only one who seems to giving it any kind of gumption is William Petersen, and that’s only because of that horrific southern accent he’s sporting. Why do actors do this? They get paid obscene amounts of money to show up for a few hours read some lines, then they go back to their pampering. The least they could do is make an attempt to do a good job!

Solo death. I wasn’t expecting this to be a blood fest, but somehow I thought there would have been more than just 1 person die. His death wasn’t even necessary, when you think about it.

College life. For a film that is set on a college campus, there sure is a lack of college life. I’m not saying every other scene needed to be drunken debauchery or anything like that, but there is something to be said for a little more than the first few scenes give us, and then all of a sudden we get glimpses outside the class buildings. It was sort of like the middle Harry Potter films.

The Skulls is decent enough, but nothing to write home about. For my tastes, it is something to watch when there is absolutely nothing else worth watching available. For others, this could be a must-see. Whatever your personal flavor is, I do recommend at least giving it a shot.

3 out of 5 stars

The Return of the Vampire

Posted in Classics, Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , on June 20, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film begins with a voiceover (Miles Mander) announcing that ‘the following events are taken from the notes of Professor Walter Saunders of King’s College, Oxford’.

The first scene takes place in a mist-shrouded cemetery at night. A werewolf (Matt Willis) enters a tomb and tells his vampire ‘Master’ that it is time for him to awake.

A hand reaches out of the coffin and lifts the lid. A shadow appears on the wall, and the unmistakable voice of Bela Lugosi asks what happened while he was asleep (Throughout the first half of the film Lugosi remains just a shadow, or a figure in the mist). The werewolf replies that his latest victim has been taken to Dr. Ainsley’s clinic.

Baffled by her patient’s anemic condition, Lady Jane Ainsley (Frieda Inescort) has called in Professor Walter Saunders (Gilbert Emery). While they are discussing the patient, two children enter. They are Lady Jane’s son, John, and Professor Saunders’ granddaughter, Nikki.

Lady Jane and the professor send the children to bed and return to their patient. The vampire, finding that his victim is not alone, attacks Nikki instead.

After the patient dies, Professor Saunders sits up the rest of the night, reading a book on vampires written two hundred years ago by Armand Tesla.

The following morning, the professor shows Lady Jane the bite marks on their dead patient’s neck, and tells her that he believes they were caused by a vampire. Lady Jane is skeptical until they discover similar bite marks on Nikki’s neck.

Professor Saunders and Lady Jane go to the cemetery and search for the vampire’s coffin. As they are about to drive a stake through its heart, the werewolf returns and tries to stop them; but once the vampire is staked, the werewolf returns to his human form.

The story now jumps forward 24 years. Professor Saunders has just died, and his account of these events was found among his effects. Sir Fredrick Fleet (Miles Mander) sits in his office at Scotland Yard, reading the professor’s manuscript.

Sir Frederick tells Lady Jane that he intends to find the body of the man whom she and Professor Saunders staked. If the man really was alive when they staked him, Lady Jane is guilty of murder.

Lady Jane tells Sir Frederick that the man she and the professor staked was two hundred years old. He was none other than Armand Tesla, whose lifelong fascination with vampires ended with his becoming one himself.

The scene shifts to Lady Jane’s clinic. Her son, John, and Professor Saunders’ granddaughter, Nikki, are now adults and plan to marry.

It is World War Two, and Nikki (Nina Foch) is in military uniform. John (Roland Varno) is in civilian clothes, having been discharged from the RAF due to a war injury.

When she and John are alone, Lady Jane tells him about her meeting with Sir Frederick. John asks if she is worried about being arrested for murder. Lady Jane says that, when Sir Frederick finds Tesla’s body, he will see that it hasn’t decomposed. That will prove Tesla was a vampire.

They agree not to tell Nikki about this. They don’t want to remind her of her childhood trauma when she was bitten by the vampire.

While they are talking, Andréas enters. He used to be Tesla’s werewolf servant. Freed of the vampire’s power, he has become human again, and is Lady Jane’s assistant at the clinic.

Andréas is visibly upset when he hears that the vampire’s body is going to be dug up.

During an air raid, a bomb falls on the cemetery. Gravediggers are assigned to rebury the disturbed coffins. They find Tesla’s body, assume the stake driven through his heart was part of a bomb, and pull it out.

Back at the clinic, Lady Jane tells Andréas that Hugo Bruckner, a famous scientist, has escaped a Nazi concentration camp and is coming to England to work with her. She sends Andréas to meet Dr. Bruckner’s boat and bring him back to the clinic.

On his way to meet Bruckner, Andréas sees the risen vampire. Now, for the first time, the audience see Lugosi’s face.

Fixing Andréas with his hypnotic eyes, the vampire says that he was responsible for Professor Saunders’ death. Now he will take his revenge on Lady Jane.

Andréas, once again under Tesla’s power, becomes a werewolf. Following the vampire’s orders, he kills Bruckner and Tesla takes his place.

The following morning, Sir Frederick and Lady Jane come to the cemetery to look for Tesla’s grave. When they find there is nothing left of it but a hole where the bomb fell, Sir Frederick declares the case is closed.

That evening, Lady Jane throws a party to celebrate John and Nikki’s engagement. Sir Frederick arrives, with Professor Saunders’ manuscript. He asks Lady Jane whether he should give the manuscript to Nikki, since she is the professor’s granddaughter and only living relative. Lady Jane takes the manuscript and locks it in a drawer because she doesn’t want Nikki to be reminded of her childhood trauma.

Tesla arrives, pretending to be Bruckner. He charms everyone except Sir Frederick, who seems suspicious of him.

Lady Jane discovers the drawer has been forced open and the professor’s manuscript stolen. She calls in Sir Frederick. He finds some hairs stuck to the drawer, and puts them in his pocket.

Upstairs, Nikki finds the manuscript lying beside her bed and begins reading it.

Later, she hears Tesla’s voice calling to her. She asks who he is, and he replies that she already knows.

The following morning, John and Lady Jane find Nikki lying unconscious on the floor of her bedroom. John is upset when he sees the bite marks on Nikki’s neck, but Lady Jane assures him that everything will be all right.

Lady Jane returns to the cemetery and speaks with the gravediggers. They tell her that they found a body with a stake in it. They pulled out the stake and reburied the body, but now it’s missing.

She tells this to Sir Frederick, but he dismisses it because he doesn’t believe in vampires. Instead he assigns two plainclothes men to shadow Andréas.

While the two men are following him, Andréas changes into a werewolf. He runs away, dropping the bundle he was carrying.

The two men take the bundle to Sir Frederick, who opens it and finds it contains the personal effects of the real Hugo Bruckner. Sir Frederick’s suspicions of Bruckner/Tesla are now confirmed.

While Sir Frederick is examining the contents of the bundle, another man comes in. He says that a laboratory analysis of the hairs Sir Frederick found on the drawer show them to be wolf’s hairs.

That night, as Nikki sleeps, Tesla calls to her again. He tells her to go to John’s bedroom.

The following morning, Lady Jane finds John lying on the floor of his bedroom with bite marks on his neck. Nikki is convinced that she is becoming a vampire, but Lady Jane tells her that Tesla bit John, hoping to make Nikki believe she did it.

Sir Frederick and Lady Jane question Andréas about the bundle. His hands become hairy and clawlike, but before he completes his transformation into a werewolf, he runs away.

Sir Frederick assigns the same two plainclothes men to follow Bruckner/Tesla, but the vampire eludes them.

Bruckner/Tesla goes to the Ainsley house and stands in the shadows, watching Lady Jane as she plays the organ. He tells her that, now she knows who he really is, he will take his revenge. He will turn Nikki into a vampire, and she will then do the same to John.

Lady Jane pushes the sheet music aside, revealing a cross on the organ. The vampire disappears.

Again Tesla calls to Nikki. She rises from her bed, leaves her bedroom and walks down the stairs.

Downstairs, Sir Frederick and Lady Jane are once again arguing the existence of vampires. When they see Nikki coming down the stairs, they stop arguing and follow her.

Nikki goes to the cemetery, where Tesla and Andréas (who has now completed his transformation into a werewolf) are waiting for her.

The air raid siren goes off and bombs start falling. Nikki faints. The werewolf picks her up and is carrying her to safety when Sir Frederick shoots him.

The wounded werewolf staggers into the tomb, still carrying the unconscious Nikki. He lays her down and asks Tesla for help. The vampire says that he no longer needs him, and tells Andréas to crawl into a corner and die.

The werewolf obediently crawls into a corner, where he finds a crucifix. He picks it up, and returns to his human form.

An explosion fills the screen, indicating a bomb has hit the cemetery. When Nikki awakes, she sees Andréas dragging an unconscious Tesla out of the tomb.

It is now dawn, and the vampire begins to decompose in the daylight. After Tesla dies, Andréas also dies of his bullet wound.

Sir Frederick and Lady Jane had taken shelter from the bombs, and continued quarreling. They now rush back to the cemetery and find Nikki, who tells them that Andréas saved her.

Lady Jane asks Sir Frederick if he now believes in vampires. He says that he is still an unbeliever.

He turns to the two plainclothes men and asks them ‘You two fellows don’t believe in vampires, do you?’ To his surprise, they both reply that they do. He then faces the camera and asks ‘Do you people?’

REVIEW:

When one sees the name Bela Lugosi and the word vampire together, it is immediately assumed that he’s Dracula, and with good reason. He immortalized the great vampire lord in Dracula. Unfortunately, The Return of the Vampire does not feature Dracula because of some legal stuff between the studio that owned the rights to the name and the studio that made this film. Was this legal battle the end of this film before it even got started?

Let’s see what I liked.

Bela. First off, does anyone else find it ironic that the greatest vampire actor ever shares a name with a lifeless character in a series of books and movies that have done nothing but defecate on the legacy of all vampires? Anyway, this man is a great actor, and proves it time and time again, by bringing some life to the hopeless script. His presence on screen can only be matched by his enormous talent

Working together…sort of. Most of the films and television shows nowadays that show werewolves and vampires together have them at each other’s throats. This flick, however, does something slightly different. The vampire has the werewolf as his slave. Yes, you can make the case that is the same thing they do in Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. However, this werewolf isn’t aware that he’s a slave. As a matter of fact, he seems to be more of an Igor type character until certain things happen to him.

Vampire smooth. One think that not enough vampire incarnations seem to do is capitalize on the smooth, hypnotic powers these creatures have. I loved how Tesla was using this power of suggestion on the young maiden, Nikki. I have total faith that if this film would have been released about 50 or 60 yrs later, there would have been come kind of scene where he turns into mist and sneaks into her bedroom, similar to the scene in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

What didn’t I like?

Make some sense. The plot wasn’t disjointed as much as it just didn’t seem to gel. It was almost as if they thought getting Bela Lugosi to play a vampire was going to be the sole selling point of the film and a well crafted story was too much to ask. Why they thought this is a mystery to me, but there it is.

Make up. Bela’s vampire make up was decent enough, but paled in comparison to his Dracula make up. The real crime, though, was the werewolf. I guess now I know why they make those Twilight werewolves look more like bears than wolves. The way they had hair and stuff on this guy he looked like some kind of bear, a teddy bear, to be exact.

Not so feminine. Lady Jane from start to finish just turned out to be the most unlikable character in the entire flick. How is it that one of the film’s alleged heroines is less likable than the villains? Something just seemed off about that, if you ask me.

The Return of the Vampire is a misnomer, seeing as how Armand Tesla is not a vampire we’ve seen before..at least to my knowledge. However, this film is not all bad. I would recommend it to those of us that are fans of classic horror. However, for the rest of you that refuse to acknowledge the past by saying these films are cheesy and crappy, this is obviously not for you.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Westerns with tags , , , , , , , , on June 19, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In the late 1890s Wyoming, Butch Cassidy, the affable, clever, talkative leader of the Hole in the Wall Gang, and his closest companion, the laconic dead-shot Sundance Kid, return to the gang’s hideout in Hole-in-the-Wall to discover that the rest of the gang, irked at Butch’s long absences, has selected a new leader, Harvey Logan (Ted Cassidy), who challenges Butch to a knife fight over the gang’s leadership. Using trickery, Butch defeats the much larger Logan, but embraces Logan’s idea to rob the Union Pacific Flyer coming and going, agreeing that the second robbery would be unexpected and likely to involve even more money than the first. The first robbery goes well. To celebrate, Butch and the Kid visit a favorite brothel in a nearby town and watch amused as the town sheriff (Kenneth Mars) attempts to organize a posse to track down the gang. Sundance then leaves to visit his lover, the schoolteacher Etta Place (Katharine Ross). The next morning, Butch arrives on a bicycle, and takes Etta for a ride.

Later, the second train robbery goes wrong when Butch uses too much dynamite to blow the safe, turning the baggage car into a flat car and scattering the money everywhere. As the gang members scramble to gather up the money, a second train arrives carrying a six-man team that has been specially outfitted by Union Pacific head E. H. Harriman to hunt Butch and Sundance. The robbers flee in multiple directions, but the posse only follows Butch and Sundance, who elude their pursuers and return to the brothel to hide out. When the posse appears in town, Butch and Sundance are betrayed but escape on horseback. They then try to arrange an amnesty with the help of the friendly Sheriff Bledsoe (Jeff Corey), but he tells them candidly that it is too late—their criminal lifestyle can only lead them to being hunted down and killed.

Still on the run the next day, they realize the determined posse includes a renowned Indian tracker known as “Lord Baltimore”, and a tough, relentless lawman named Joe LeFors whom they recognize at a distance by his white skimmer. After reaching the summit of a mountain, they find themselves trapped on the edge of a cliff. Though Sundance cannot swim and would prefer to fight, they decide to jump into the river far below and escape. Arriving at Etta’s house, they learn that the posse has been paid to stay together until they kill both of them. Butch persuades Sundance and Etta that the three should escape to Bolivia, which Butch envisions as a robber’s paradise.

After fleeing to New York, the three board a passenger ship, eventually arriving by train in Bolivia, where a dismayed Sundance regards the country with contempt while Butch remains optimistic. Knowing too little Spanish to be successful bank robbers in Bolivia, Etta attempts to teach them the language, though Butch still needs a cribsheet. After more robberies (assisted by Etta), the duo, now known as Los Bandidos Yanquis, are wanted all over Bolivia. Their confidence drops when they see a man wearing a white straw hat. Fearing that Joe LeFors is once again after them, Butch suggests going straight.

They land their first honest job as payroll guards for a mining company, run by a seedy, tobacco-chewing American named Percy Garris (Strother Martin), who needs protection from native bandits who continually rob the payroll. When the pair first accompany Garris carrying the payroll, the trio are ambushed by bandits, who kill Garris and begin dividing the money. Butch and Sundance ambush the bandits, killing them all in a gunfight, the first time Butch has ever shot a man. The two decide that the straight life is not for them, and return to robbery, but Etta, sensing their days are numbered, decides to return to America rather than see them killed.

Following their theft of a payroll and the mules carrying it, they arrive in a small town where a stable boy recognizes the mules’ brand and alerts the local police. While Butch and Sundance are at a local eatery, the police arrive and a gun battle ensues.

The two take shelter in a room nearby, but are soon low on ammunition. Butch makes a run to the mules to fetch the rest of the ammunition while Sundance provides cover, but they are both seriously wounded in the ensuing gunfire. While they tend to their wounds in the room, dozens of Bolivian soldiers arrive and surround their hideout.

Unaware of the army’s arrival, the pair discuss plans for their next destination: Australia. Butch, suddenly fearing that LeFors may have found them, asks Sundance if he saw the lawman during the fight, but Sundance says no.

Relieved, the two men run out of the house, their guns ablaze. The image freezes on them; a voice is heard shouting “¡Fuego!” (Spanish for “Fire!”) followed by several intense barrages of massed gunfire as the image fades from color to sepia tone.

REVIEW:

I remember back when I was a kid listening to my grandfather go on and on about westerns. He especially liked the show Gunsmoke. I never got into it, but I do believe this is what got me started liking westerns, coupled with the curiosity of learning where the heck the music we played in marching band my freshman year (remember those days, Alyse?), and I’ve been a fan ever since.

One of the films in this genre that has been on my radar, but constantly getting pushed further and further down is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. This film is a bit of a mystery for me. On the one hand, I really enjoyed it, but on the other I’m no sure today’s audiences would find it anything but cheesy, the way they do just about any and everything that was made in a  time when film making was a true art form and not shaking the camera the whole time you’re filming, spending 2 weeks filming and then taking the a good 6-8 months adding unnecessary CG effects, or filming an entire film in 2D advertising the hell out of it, then pushing it back to convert it to 3D so it can make more money.

So, what did I like about this film?

Buddies. Admittedly, I don’t really know too much about Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, other than they’re bank robbers from the old west. I do know, though that they were pretty good friends. This film does a mighty good job of capturing that. At times, it sort of felt like watching one of those buddy cop (well, robbers in this case) shows like C.H.I.P.s or Starsky & Hutch. That feeling is no more evident than in a scene where Butch takes Kid’s girlfriend for a bicycle ride, comes back, Kid comes out asks what they’re doing and, when they tell him, he says ok. You know that had this been made in this day and age, regardless of the facts, they would have done one of two things with this: a) ended up in a menage a’ troi or b) turned this into some all out brawl that could ruin their friendship. Thank goodness this kind of thinking wasn’t prevalent back in the good ol’ days of cinema.

Mrs. Robinson. You know, I’ve seen pictures of Etta Place and she wasn’t really much to look at. Then again, back in the 1800s, there was no internet, tv, or sexy magazine shoots. All men had were brothels and their imagination. Not sure what women had, though. Anyway, the actress that plays her is quite the looker. As a matter of fact, she plays Elaine Robinson in The Graduate. No, that isn’t Mrs. Robinson, but rather her daughter.

Making magic. Separately, Robert Redford and Paul Newman were top actors and heart-throbs of this era. Together, they have dynamic chemistry and seem to be an unstoppable force. When two stars of this magnitude get together, you never know what will happen.

Mixing it up. I really appreciate how the plot, including the way it deviates from history, was a mixture of action, drama, and comedy. I went into this thinking that perhaps it was just going to be a straightforward western, but when the final credits rolled, I was pleasantly surprised at how wrong I was.

Fade to…sepia? The film starts with some kind of 1920s film strip and ends with a fade to sepia. I’m a proponent of black and white. Some of my favorite television shows are in black and white, and a good chunk of the better movies were done in black and white (not all of them made in the Golden Age of Hollywood). As much as I like this, sepia seems to be more effective, especially in the film’s final scene. I do wonder, where it was that we went from sepia to black and white and then jumped up to color.

What didn’t I like?

Bolivia. I know this is a major part of their history and all, but it just seemed out of place. This may be more of an indictment on where they filmed it, rather than anything else, but it seemed to me like they were just in Mexico. I know there are sure to be similarities in the buildings and all. Hell, buildings in San Antonio and Santa Fe look similar, even though the cities couldn’t be anymore different. I believe, though, that they could have done a better job with making Bolivia look like Bolivia, rather than just another part of Mexico flying a Bolivian flag.

Shootout. Roger Ebert hated this movie. I believe he is the only person to openly do so. One of his biggest qualms was that ending was a rip off of Bonnie & Clyde. As I watched, I see what he was talking about. I have no problem with that, though. Apparently, that is about as close to an approximation of what happened as you can get. However, I think they made a mistake in the way it was shot. I was half expecting the soldiers to pull out their tommy guns and start wailing away.

In the end,Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kidwill more than likely make my top 10 westerns list. No, it won’t touch those top 2, but then again, not many films can. This is one of those films that has something for everyone and I highly recommend you give it a chance sometime. After all, there has to be some reason it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant, right?

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Contraband

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , on June 16, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Chris Farraday (Mark Wahlberg) is an ex-smuggler who works installing security alarms and lives a peaceful life with his wife, Kate (Kate Beckinsale), and their two sons in New Orleans. One day, Chris and Kate learn that her brother Andy (Caleb Landry Jones) was smuggling drugs in a cargo ship, but was forced to drop them into the Mississippi River in order to avoid arrest during a surprise inspection by U.S. Customs. Andy’s boss, ruthless mobster Tim Briggs (Giovanni Ribisi), is infuriated and demands repayment.

Chris meets with Briggs, who threatens to kill Chris’ family if Andy doesn’t pay $700,000 in two weeks. Chris realizes that the only way to raise the money is to run contraband and joins the crew of a cargo ship where his father Bud (William Lucking), currently in prison, used to run contraband, in order to buy $10,000,000 in fake bills in Panama and smuggle them into the U.S. with the help of Andy and Chris’ old friend Danny Raymer (Lukas Haas). While Chris is gone, Briggs and a couple of his thugs break into Chris’s house and scare his wife and kids. Chris asks his best friend, Sebastian Abney (Ben Foster), to take care of his family. He suggests that Kate and the children move to his apartment, and she accepts.

In Panama, the Chief Engineer gives Chris extra time by sabotaging the ship’s pitch propeller, drawing suspicion from Captain Camp (J K Simmons). However, Chris discovers that the bills are useless and refuses to accept them. The only one who can provide them good ones is crime lord Gonzalo (Diego Luna). Briggs calls Andy and threatens to kill one of his nephews if Andy doesn’t use the buy money intended for the fake bills to acquire a stash of cocaine. Andy runs off, leading an infuriated Gonzalo to force Chris and Danny to participate in an armored car heist. They are successful, but Gonzalo and his men are killed in a firefight with the police.

Chris and Danny make it back to Gonzalo’s warehouse, where they then escape in a van loaded with the fake money and a painting stolen from the armored car. Meanwhile, Sebastian begins working with Briggs against Chris after Scottish gangster Jim Church (David O’Hara) threatens to kill Sebastian if he doesn’t repay the money he borrowed to save his fledgling construction business. When Sebastian calls Chris, Chris tells him that he might drop the drugs in the ocean. Sebastian tells Briggs to scare Kate in order to make sure that Chris doesn’t dump the drugs. That night, Briggs rams Kate’s workplace with his truck and assaults her, warning her to tell Chris to not dump the “package”. Sebastian pretends to rescue her, scaring off Briggs. He tells Kate to get in his truck, but she smells alcohol on him, takes her kids and drives to a friend’s house.

At the Panama City freight yard, the ship’s cook has a container standing by for the contraband-loaded van. He bribes a freight-yard supervisor to delay the loading of three containers to give Chris time to make it to the ship. Chris assaults Andy for stealing the money and buying cocaine. Andy reveals what Briggs told him before. Kate calls Chris and tells him what Briggs did to her and what he said. Chris is surprised that Briggs knew the idea of Chris dumping the drugs. He first suspects Andy, but after Andy persistently tells Chris he didn’t say anything, Chris figures out it was Sebastian, who he calls and threatens to kill.

Sebastian’s constant watch over Kate becomes tiresome to her. She goes back to Sebastian’s apartment to retrieve some personal items. Sebastian, under the influence, tries to force himself on her. Kate resists him, runs to the bathroom, locks the door and tries to call Chris. Sebastian insults Kate and tells her not to call Chris, telling her he needs to complete his mission and Kate calling him would ruin everything. Kate calls him anyway, and Sebastian breaks the door open, sending Kate flying and bashing her head against the tub. Sebastian thinks she is dead and panics, wraps her in plastic, and throws Kate’s unconscious body in a hole.

Sebastian then contacts Camp and admits that Chris is smuggling on his ship, promising him a share if he makes sure Chris doesn’t throw it overboard. Chris does not give up the contraband, so the captain calls U.S. Customs. However, when the Customs Agents meet the ship in port, they cannot find the drugs.

After Andy leaves the ship, Briggs and his thugs chase and corner him. After Customs has excused Chris, he meets Briggs in a desolate area of the cargo yard where he threatens to kill Andy. Chris breaks Briggs’s car window, throws him out, and beats him for everything he did to his family. He tells Andy to run and takes Briggs to Camp’s house, having made a duplicate key while on the ship, and knowingly activates the security system. Chris opens Camp’s personal carpet cleaner and retrieves the cocaine from the water tank. Briggs compliments Chris on his smuggling skills, and sits in Camp’s living room tasting the cocaine. Chris asks permission to go to the bathroom, and sneaks out in the Camp’s car. Camp awakens to the noise, and comes into the living room as the police arrive. Chris is long gone and both Briggs and Camp are arrested.

Chris goes to Sebastian’s construction site and brutally beats him, demanding Kate’s location. When Sebastian tells Chris that she’s dead, he tries calling her cellphone and hears the ringtone in a building foundation where cement is being poured and rescues her. Sebastian is arrested and meets Bud in prison, where Bud gives a group of inmates an approving nod as they surround Sebastian.

Danny retrieves the fake bills, which Chris had previously dumped into the Mississippi River. Andy buys the escape van at a police auction.

Chris meets with Church, who pays him $3 million for the fake currency. In a friendly conversation, Church asks Chris if he knows anything about a Jackson Pollock (Autumn Rhythm) painting that was stolen in Panama, telling him that it’s worth over $140 million, or $20 million on the black market. As they leave the meeting with Church, they find painting still in the van, having gone unnoticed. The film ends with Chris and his family in a waterfront house and happy.

REVIEW:

Where should I begin with a movie like Contraband? Well, the trailers would have us believe that this was some kind of die hard action flick, but when you watch the flick you learn that is more of a crime thriller with some action thrown in there to keep it from being a drama. The quandary about this is whether or not it should have in fact been an action flick as opposed to what can best be described as Gone in 60 Seconds without the cars.

What did I like?

It works. I read a review about this earlier this week that said Mark Wahlberg, Ben Foster, and Giovanni Ribisi all have become the kind of actors that play the same role in just about every film they’re in. Now that I think about, that is true, but if it ain’t broke, why fix it? It isn’t like they stink up the place, as a matter of fact Ribisi is the only one who seems to have any life in this cast!

Calculated. The way in which they pull off this caper is quite impressive. The attention to detail really caught my attention. Usually in film where there are smugglers they don’t cover all the bases. These guys even went so far as to using salt to keep the money in a safe spot when they threw it overboard so as to keep from getting caught by the authorities.

Family. Unlike other films like this, they decide to keep an eye on the family, even going so far as to make them part of the plot, as opposed to seeing them wave goodbye and never seeing them again. For me, this was kind of an important thing, especially since it involved Kate Beckinsale!

What didn’t I like?

Ship. For some reason, I think this would have been better, or should I say more effective, if they had done this in the air rather than sea. I’m not saying the use of the boats was pointless, but given how paranoid everyone is about what kind of cargo goes in the air and whatnot, perhaps using that would have added to the intrigue.

No chemistry. I love Kate Beckinsale. What straight man doesn’t, right? My jealousy for him being married to her aside, I just didn’t buy that Mark Wahlberg was married to her. It seemed like some odd pairing that was done at the last minutes. Sort of like the understudy having to fill in because the lead got sick at the last-minute. Everything is there, except the time put in to feel each other. That’s what this was like.

Trouble. The whole reason behind this little caper, Wahlberg’s brother-in-law, doesn’t seem to be very helpful during this whole thing. He even runs off without telling anyone and when he comes back is lucky Wahlberg doesn’t kill him! I don’t know, I guess I’m just from a different generation where if someone offers to help you out, you do what you can to offer some assistance.

Contraband was an ok flick. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it. For everything good, there was something that I wasn’t too crazy about. Do I recommend it, though? Yes, there is no reason that you shouldn’t see this film. Bear in mind, though, that not everyone is going to like it. Some of you will be bored with it and some may even get pissed with how things unfold.

3 out of 5 stars

A Serious Man

Posted in Comedy, Independent, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , on June 16, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In a Polish shtetl in the early 20th century, a Jewish man tells his wife Dora that he was helped on his way home by Traitle Groshkover, whom he has invited in for soup. Dora objects, saying Groshkover is dead, and that the visitor must be a dybbuk. Groshkover (Fyvush Finkel) arrives and laughs off the accusation, but Dora plunges an icepick into his chest. Bleeding, he exits into the snowy night.

In Minnesota in 1967, Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) is a professor of physics whose wife, Judith (Sari Lennick), abruptly informs him that she needs a get (a Jewish divorce document) so she can marry widower Sy Ableman (Fred Melamed).

Three other people live with Larry and Judith. Their son Danny (Aaron Wolff) owes twenty dollars for marijuana to an intimidating Hebrew school classmate, but the bill is hidden in a transistor radio since confiscated by his teacher. Daughter Sarah is always doing her hair. Larry’s brother, Arthur (Richard Kind), sleeps on the couch and spends his free time filling a notebook with “a probability map of the universe.”

Larry faces an impending vote on his application for tenure, and his department head lets slip that anonymous letters have urged the committee to deny him. Clive Park, a student worried about losing his scholarship, meets with Larry in his office to argue he should not fail the class. After he leaves, Larry finds an envelope stuffed with cash. When Larry attempts to return it, Clive’s father comes to his house to threaten to sue either for defamation if Larry accuses Clive of bribery, or for keeping the money if he does not give him a passing grade.

At the insistence of Judith and Sy, Larry and Arthur move into a nearby motel. Judith has emptied the couple’s bank accounts, leaving Larry penniless, so he enlists the services of a sympathetic divorce attorney (Adam Arkin). Larry learns Arthur faces charges of solicitation and sodomy, despite his previous attendance at “mixers.”

To cope with his streak of unfortunate circumstances, Larry turns to his Jewish faith. The two rabbis he consults are either obtuse, oblivious, or obscure. His synagogue’s senior rabbi is never available. Larry’s mental state reaches a breaking point when he and Sy are involved in seemingly simultaneous, but separate, car crashes. Larry is unharmed, but Sy is killed. At Judith’s insistence, Larry pays for Sy’s funeral.

Larry is proud and moved by Danny’s bar mitzvah, unaware of his son’s distractions from nerves and marijuana. During the service, Judith apologizes to Larry for all the recent trouble and informs him that Sy liked him so much that he even wrote letters to the tenure committee. Danny meets with the senior rabbi in his office, where the old man – who has had Danny’s transistor radio in his desk – quotes almost verbatim from the Jefferson Airplane song “Somebody To Love”. He returns the radio and counsels Danny to “be a good boy.”

Larry’s department head compliments him on Danny’s bar mitzvah and hints that he will win tenure. Upon receiving the bill for Arthur’s criminal lawyer, Larry decides to pass Clive, whereupon his doctor calls, asking to see him immediately about the results of a chest X-ray. At the same moment, Danny’s teacher struggles to open the emergency shelter as a massive tornado bears down on the school.

REVIEW:

A few years ago, A Serious Man was one of those films that was a media and critics darling. It even garnered some Oscar nods. However, I had a huge problem with trying to understand what the heck was going on.

What did I like?

Acting. Say what you will about this film, you cannot deny that the acting is top-notch, especially with a bunch of no-name actors (Richard Kind is the biggest name of the cast!!!)

Minimalist. When was the last time you saw a film that had very little, if any, in the way of special effects and whatnot? Well, this is one of those. On top of that, there isn’t much to distract from the story. For this type of film, that is a plus.

Bang. If you’re a fan of The Big Bang Theory, then you’ll recognize the young rabbi. His scene is short, but it may very well be one of the best things about this flick.

What didn’t I like?

Opening. WTF?!? This film starts with some weird Jewish spoken scene that doesn’t seem to relate to anything in the rest of the film. It was bad enough watching it, but then to find out that it had nothing to do with the rest of the film was just the start of my confusion and frustration with this picture.

Incoherence. For the love of me, I could not figure out what the heck was going on with the story, other than this guy is just having his life fall apart ever so slowly. Somehow, this makes a nearly 2 hr flick. I don’t know, I guess I just need to watch it again. Maybe a second viewing will shed some light on what it is that truly is going on here.

Lifeless. Maybe it was just me, but almost all of these characters seemed to be lifeless, except for the militaristic hunter neighbor and the aforementioned rabbi cameo.

As you can probably surmise, A Serious Man did not do anything for me. I just felt lost from beginning to end. It was like when I was in elementary school and looked in my sister’s 12th grade algebra book. Confusion, headaches, dubfoundedness all abounded. All this is not to say this is a bad film, because it isn’t. I am just not the audience for it, I guess.

3 out of 5 stars