Archive for July, 2012

Mirror Mirror

Posted in Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 28, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!)

Snow White’s mother died in child birth. Her father, the King (Sean Bean), then raised Snow White so that she could rule the kingdom one day. Feeling that she needed a mother, the king married again. His new wife is the Queen (Julia Roberts), the most beautiful woman in the land. One day, the king leaves to fight a great evil that has invaded the land, giving Snow White a golden dagger. He rides off into the forest and never comes back. The Queen rules in his place. Jealous and threatened by Snow White and the people’s devotion to her, the Queen decides that “Snow White must do what snow does best, fall.”

Ten years later Snow White (Lily Collins) is turning eighteen and has spent much of her life locked in the palace. The Queen does not care for her but Snow White is still loved by the palace staff, especially by a kind baker named Margaret (Mare Winningham), who took care of Snow White ever since the King disappeared. Margaret tells Snow White that the kingdom is rightfully hers and that she should go outside and see what has become of her people. Snow White then defies the Queen’s orders and leaves the palace, intent on seeing the conditions of her kingdom. In the forest, she meets Prince Andrew Alcott (Armie Hammer) and his companion Charles Renbock (Robert Emms) who have been robbed by short bandits. She and the Prince are drawn to each other but go their separate ways. Snow White arrives in the town the palace overlooks (which she remembered visiting the town once before with her father), and discovers it is barren and the once-happy people are destitute due to the Queen’s greed. Angered that the Queen has destroyed everything her father worked for, Snow White decides to help the kingdom and overthrow her stepmother.

Prince Alcott finds his way to the palace. The Queen, realizing he comes from a wealthy kingdom, hatches a plot to get him to marry her so she can solve her financial problems. She hosts a ball in honor of the Prince and goes to great lengths to make herself as beautiful as possible. Snow White secretly attends the ball planning to ask the prince, whom she believes she has not met, to help her restore the kingdom. She and Alcott learn the truth about each other when they are partnered in a dance. Smitten, Prince Alcott makes sure that Snow White stays by his side which the Queen notices. The Queen has Snow White seized by her guards, and Snow White (for the first time in her life) stands up to her stepmother and tells her she has no right to rule as she does. Seeing Snow White as the threat she always feared she would be, The Queen orders her manservant Brighton (Nathan Lane) to take the princess into the forest and feed her to the Beast that lives there. Brighton takes Snow White to the forest, but is unable to kill her. He releases her and tells her to run. Snow White flees the Beast (Frank Welker) and collapses at the door to the Seven Dwarfs’ house.

The Queen goes to her Magic Mirror, a portal to a bleak and barren world that contains a house full of mirrors. Within the mirrors lives the Queen’s reflection (Lisa Roberts Gillan) who is much wiser, kinder, and somewhat younger than her. She gives advice to the Queen when she asks for it. The Queen requests a love potion so she can make the Prince fall in love with her. The Mirror Queen repeatedly warns her that there is a price for using dark magic, but the Queen refuses to listen. Back in the forest, Snow White wakes up to find herself surrounded by the dwarfs Grimm (Danny Woodburn), Butcher (Martin Klebba), Wolf (Sebastian Saraceno), Napoleon (Jordan Prentice), Half Pint (Mark Povinelli), Grub (Joe Gnoffo), and Chuck (Ronald Lee Clark) who is nicknamed “Chuckles” because he is always laughing. After much debate, they agree to let her stay with them for one night.

The Queen levies another tax against the people to pay for the parties she throws for Prince Alcott. Brighton is sent to collect and is informed by the town magistrate that the people can not tolerate much more. On the way back to the palace, the dwarfs rob Brighton and steal the tax money. When Snow White finds out that the Dwarves are thieves and that the stolen money belongs to the townspeople, she is angry. The Dwarfs explain that no one stood up for them years earlier when the Queen expelled them from the kingdom because she thought they were ugly. Thus, they feel no guilt for stealing. Snow White sneaks away while they are distracted to return the money. The townspeople are overjoyed to have their money back and Snow White lets the Dwarves take credit for it, earning them the people’s acceptance and gratitude. The Dwarves agree that Snow White can stay permanently if she agrees to become a thief like them. She agrees, but only if they can steal from the Queen and give back to the people.

Meanwhile, the Queen informs Alcott that Snow White is dead and attempts to get him to marry her only to be interrupted by Brighton. When the Prince finds out that the bandits have robbed Brighton, he goes after them unaware of the awful things the Queen has done. In the forest, Alcott discovers that Snow White is not only alive, but in league with the bandits. Each believing the other to be in the wrong, Snow White and Alcott duel. Alcott returns to the Palace defeated and informs the Queen that Snow White is alive and in league with the bandits that stole her money.

The Queen consults her Magic Mirror again and demands that the Mirror Queen punish Brighton for lying to her. The Mirror Queen turns him into a cockroach and tells the Mirror Queen to use its magic to kill Snow White. Despite the Mirror’s warning about using dark magic, the Queen (blinded by hatred) agrees to accept whatever consequences her actions may bring. She uses a love potion to make the Prince fall in love with her, like what she did to Snow White’s father but with unintended results (she accidentally used a potion called Puppy love which causes the Prince to act like a devoted puppy dog). Although the effects of the potion were wrong, she uses the Prince’s new found devotion to get him to agree to marry her. When Snow White learns of the wedding, she is heartbroken. The Queen then uses black magic to create two giant wooden puppets in the forest and uses them to try and kill Snow White and the Dwarves. Snow White is able to cut the strings of the puppets and break the mirror’s spell, but she decides to run away to protect her new friends. The next morning, the Dwarves find her gone and discover a note she left them telling them that she loves them all. They intercept her just as she is preparing to leave and convinces her that their lives are better with her.

They decide to crash the wedding of the Queen and the Prince, and do so. The Queen arrives at her wedding to find the Prince gone and the noble guests in their underwear, robbed of their clothes and valuables. The guests inform the Queen that Snow White has captured the Prince. Back in the forest, the Prince (still under the spell) wishes to be with the Queen. The Dwarves and Snow White come to the conclusion that they have to use true love’s kiss, which will break any spell. Snow White kisses Alcott as her first kiss and the spell is broken.

The Queen arrives in the forest intent on killing Snow White herself. She reveals that she can control the Beast that has been plaguing the forest and sends it after Snow White. Snow White fights the Beast with help from the Dwarves and the Prince, but all are soon overcome. As the beast is about to deliver the killing blow, it hesitates and Snow White sees that it wears a necklace with a moon charm on it similar to the one the Queen wears. She cuts the chain with her father’s dagger and the Beast suddenly becomes engulfed in light. In the Mirror House, the Queen is gloating, but suddenly realizes something is wrong. She begins to age and the Mirror Queen tells her that this is her consequence for using dark magic. The Beast turns out to be Snow White’s father who has no memory of the last ten years. Grateful to Alcott for his assistance, he agrees to let him marry Snow White.

During the wedding celebration, a hooded crone offers Snow White an apple as a wedding gift. Learning that the crone is what has become of the Queen, Snow White cuts a piece of the apple, offers it to the Queen, and remarks it is time to accept that she has been beaten (something the Queen once said to her). Accepting defeat, the Queen eats the apple. The Mirror House is subsequently destroyed as the Mirror Queen declared that it was Snow White’s story all along.

The film’s epilogue reveals what happened to the Dwarves: Grimm writes a book of fairy tales, Napoleon becomes a hairdresser, Wolf rejoins his pack, Half-Pint finds a girlfriend, Grub just eats, Butcher becomes a flyweight champion, and Chuck joins the royal circus

REVIEW:

Snow White is having quite the year, wouldn’t you say? In case you missed it, earlier this summer, Snow White and the Huntsman was released, and actually did some decent business. I can tell you right now that I probably won’t care for it, but I’ve been wrong before. Mirror Mirror was released earlier this year to mixed reviews, but it seemed to be more of the Snow White we all know, rather than some dark, Lord of the Rings wannabe. Does it live up to my expectations, though?

What did I like?

Tone. Yes, this may be a Grimm fairy tale, but this filmmaker decided to go more with a lighter, comedic tone, which really worked for this film, especially since there is a darker film about the exact same character that was released in the same year.

Visual aids. The visuals are a feast for the eyes. Everything from the opulent dresses of the queen, the contraptions the dwarves use, the puppets that attack said dwarves, and, of course, the mirror world will have you wondering what is going to come next.

Mirror mirror. The way the wicked queen gets to this realm inside the mirror is just awesome. I won’t bother to explain it, but when you see this place, I guarantee your jaw will drop!

Arm and hammer. If you’re going to get a prince, then it would behoove you to get one that is not an eye sore for the ladies. Armie Hammer seems to be a good choice for the prince, in that regard. Watching him in this role, he seems to fit the dashing prince just as well as James Marsden did in Enchated.

Snow. It is just common sense that if you’re going to be Snow White, then you should have some pretty fair skin, or at least stay away from the sun (and tanning beds). I give much kudos to the casting directors for casting still unknown Lily Collins (you may know her dad, Phil). She may not be the best actress, yet, but we were all saying the same thing about Anne Hathaway after The Princess Diaries, and well we see how that panned out, huh? Lily has the looks and talent to go far in this business. As far as Snow White goes, she seems like she watched Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs quite a few times, and that’s great, becuase that is the Snow White we all know and love, and the one we want to see.

What didn’t I like?

Apple. One of those most iconic things about Snow White is that she is poisoned by her wicked queen/stepmother and then has to be awaken by Prince Charming (or whatever his name is). That awakening never happens and the apple doesn’t come into play until the very last scene. Some may argue that this was a good change, but I’m one of those purists. Keep it as close to the original as you can, and for the love of all that is good and holy, don’t just make a sad attempt to shove it in there at the last minute!

Bollywood. There is a song that Snow White sings/dances to in the credits that is not only just plain awful, but also doesn’t fit. It would be like going to rap or metal concert and then all of a sudden someone decided to sing the Barney song. That is how out of place this was. I hear that it was actually part of the movie when it was in theaters, but the DVD moved it to the credits. I’m not sure how true that it, but either way, the thing is horrible.

Beast. The Beast was all buildup and no bite. The thing, when we finally see it, looks like either a Japanese dragon or a Jaberwocky. I’m not sure which, though. With all the great visuals in this picture, they could have come up with something better. He looks like he should have been in some 80s Jim Henson production.

Save the day. I guess I’m just old-fashioned, or maybe I’m some kind of closet chauvinist, but I think the prince should have saved Snow White. That’s just the way it is and should be. I’m getting kind of tired of these girl power films. Nothing against them, mind you, but has someone forgotten that guys can do the rescuing, too?

Mirror Mirror isn’t the best film, but it provided plenty of good times. I highly recommend it. For those of you wondering if this is family friendly, I would say yes. There really isn’t anything questionable, so you should have no worries. Keep in mind, I have no kids, so I’m not exactly the best person to say what is or isn’t kid-friendly, especially these days. Still, everyone should enjoy this flick, it is sure to be far superior to the crappy Kristen Stweart flick that came out a few weeks ago, and a notch below the beloved Disney masterpiece.

4 out of 5 stars

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The Hitcher

Posted in Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , on July 28, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Jim Halsey (Zachary Knighton) and Grace Andrews (Sophia Bush) are tormented by a mysterious hitchhiker named John Ryder (Sean Bean).

The couple hit the road for spring break. Ryder dangerously stands on the road, near his broken down car. Jim nearly hits him and his car spins out of control. Grace insists that someone else will stop to help and they speed off.

At a gas station, Jim sees Ryder climb out of a tractor-trailer cab while gassing up. Ryder introduces himself and asks for a ride. Reluctantly Jim agrees. While on the road, Ryder becomes violent and holds a knife to Grace’s throat. Ryder tells him the only way to save himself and Grace is to say, “I want to die.” Jim screams out “I don’t wanna die!”. He then hits the brakes hard, causing Ryder to hit his head on the windshield. Jim then speeds up, kicking Ryder repeatedly until Grace opens the passenger door and he is ejected.

Later Jim and Grace drive down the road and see a station wagon with a couple of kids playing in the back seat. Ryder appears in the back of the car, apparently hitchhiking. Grace and Jim try to warn the family of Ryder, but they are run off the road by an oncoming tractor-trailer which totals Jim’s car. With no other choice after Jim’s car is totalled, the couple is forced to continue on foot. They eventually find the family’s station wagon on the side of the road. Both children and the mother are dead, with the father slowly dying.

Hoping to find help for the dying man, the couple take the station wagon and head towards town. Ryder appears, and attempts to run them off the road in a stolen truck. Jim and Grace stop at a cafe, where the father dies. Suspected of committing the murders, Jim and Grace are arrested and brought to the police station. Grace is interrogated while Jim is held in a cell. Ryder shows up and kills everyone at the station except Jim and Grace, who flee on foot.

Shortly after, the couple arrives at a junkyard. Grace attempts to negotiate with the lone surviving cop from the station. When this fails, Jim and Grace order him at gunpoint to get into his car to allow them to escape and prove their innocence. However, before he can enter the car and leave to get reinforcements he is shot in the head by Ryder. Another officer just arriving witnesses this and begins shooting at the couple as they attempt to escape.

Despite suspecting that there might be a third suspect, Lieutenant Esteridge (Neal McDonough) sends several cruisers and a helicopter after the couple, telling his men to use any means necessary to stop them. Ryder shows up in a 1979 Trans Am and helps Jim and Grace escape the police, managing to single-handedly blind shooting, take out all of the cruisers and the helicopter.

Grace and Jim walk to a motel after their cruiser breaks down. After sharing a shower, Jim steps out of the room to make a phone call. He is gone for several hours and Grace falls asleep watching Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. She is awakened by someone in the bed who is fondling her. Ryder tries to rape her, but Grace manages to fight him off and hide in the bathroom with a revolver.

Ryder disappears as Grace searches for Jim. The motel manager sees her with a gun and calls the police. Grace finds Jim and sees that he is tied between a truck and a trailer. Ryder looks in the side-view mirror and revs the engine, moving the truck a few inches. This hurts Jim and Grace runs to the cab to find Ryder sitting in the driver’s seat. Grace points the gun at him and tells him to stop the truck. Ryder keeps hitting the gas, brutally hurting Jim. The police, who still think Grace and Jim are the killers, then show up and see Grace with Ryder at gunpoint. They do not realize who is behind the torturing of Jim, who they can barely see chained to the truck. They tell her to drop the gun, but Ryder tells Grace not to listen to them. Ryder releases the pedal (moving the truck at speed) and Jim is split in half at the waist, killing him. Grace is devastated. Ryder and Grace are then apprehended by the police.

The next morning, Esteridge tells Ryder that he will be transported across the state. He also tells Grace, whose innocence has been proven, that the real John Ryder is missing and they do not know the true identity of this hitcher. He also informs her that he’ll be taking her for psychiatric care and released to her parents. Ryder is bound in handcuffs with a bulletproof vest and placed in the back of a police van, with Grace and Esteridge driving behind them in an SUV. During the ride, Ryder is able to break free of his restraints, kills the guard who is watching him, and shoots the driver. The driver loses control and rolls the van, taking out an oncoming car, which crashes into Esteridge’s SUV.

Lieutenant Esteridge’s leg has been trapped in the accident. Grace takes Esteridge’s gun, leaving him unarmed and helpless, and slowly makes her way to the van in which Ryder is caught. Grace opens the back door, whereupon Ryder takes her gun and locks her in the back. Ryder sees a pool of gasoline near the van, and shoots it, igniting the van. Grace manages to get a shotgun from the front seat of the van right before the gasoline explodes. Ryder shoots Esteridge in the head and walks away. However, Grace survives the explosion and shoots Ryder several times, finally killing him and ending his rampage.

REVIEW:

There was a time when you could pick up a hitchhiker off the side of the road and not have to worry about them slicing you up. Those days have passed, though, as we can see in The Hitcher. If ever there was a public service announcement for not picking up random people off the side of the road, this is it.

What did I like?

Bush. Even though she isn’t that great of an actress, I am a fan of her unrivaled beauty. This is the kind of film that she is best suited for, something where her looks can be an asset and her acting won’t necessarily be a hindrance. If only she didn’t have such an unfortunate last name. For those that wonder if she’s been in any film’s before, you may remember her from John Tucker Must Die.

Random acts of violence. The hitchhiker, played by Sean Bean, is some kind of violent, sadistic murdering menace who apparently has had something happen in his like that makes him wish to die and cause suffering to everyone else. His best murder involves two trucks, that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Quotes. There actually isn’t much in the way of memorable quotes uttered through this picture. As a matter of fact, the stars of this film just prattle on about how they need to stop this hitcher, but that didn’t really do any good. However, when Neal McDonough pops up and is monitoring things, he has some memorable lines. Listen out for them.

What didn’t I like?

Why? I would have liked to have known why spurred on this killing spree by this hitcher. I’m not saying I want an entire backstory, but maybe a flashback or some exposition that says maybe his wife was killed by a drunk driver or something along those lines.

Keystone cops. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a police force more incompetent that these jokers. They see this couple with a man dying in their arms and assume they’re the killers, rather than someone trying to help. Does no one in New Mexico do actual police work?!?

The Hitcher is not the worst horror film, but there isn’t anything memorable about it. There isn’t as much murder as you would like for it to have and the story is just lame and forgettable. This is what happens when you do a remake! I don’t recommend this, but won’t say you shouldn’t see it. Watch at your own risk!

2 3/4 out of 5 stars

The Big Bird Cage

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , on July 27, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

A buxom bad girl named Blossom (Pam Grier) is the rough-and-ready girlfriend of a radical guerrilla leader named Django (Sid Haig). But when Django’s mercenary friends itch for some female companionship, they devise a plan to liberate the inmates of a local women’s prison. With the help of another new inmate (Anitra Ford), Blossom and Django go up against a tyrannical warden (Andrés Centenera) to stage an explosive breakout.

REVIEW:

It is no secret that Pam Grier is one of my favorite classic actresses, ranking up with the likes of Lucille Ball and Jayne Mansfield, tied with Marilyn Monroe. So, it should come as no surprise that I try to see all of her films, especially the older ones. This is how I came across The Big Bird Cage. This doesn’t really fall into the usual blaxploitation films Pam is known for, but rather a female exploitation flick involving women in cages.

What did I like?

Pam. In all her buxom, busty glory, we get the Nubian goddess Pam Grier. When they talk about the total package of the 70s, they really must have been talking about her. Not only does she have the acting chops (hindered by these badly scripted films she’s been in), but she also has a killer body. I think this may have been the most she’s shown it off, without actually stripping down. Having said that, I’m not so sure I was a fan of her role in this film, but I can forgive just about anything because it’s Pam.

Location, location, location. Going in, I was of the belief that this film was going to be 90 minutes of nothing but women in the middle of the jungle in prison. I can’t say that I was relieved it wasn’t, but there was something that felt a bit like a breath of fresh air to have parts of the film, even if it is just the first couple of scenes, be in the city.

Females. Look, I’m a guy. I like seeing naked, sweaty women, so for me to not say this was something U liked would not give this film the credit it deserves, not to mention, most of the people who actually watch this film are watching ti just to see if they can get a peek at some massive mammaries, let’s be honest. I wish there was more of it, but the little we get is enough.

What didn’t I like?

Cage. The big bird cage is not used at all in this film, and yet it is the title. All we get from it is that these women are being forced into building it. You’d think they would have thought of a way to utilize it more or come up with a title that reflects how it is used, rather than having us believe we’re going to see some giant gird cage.

Guards. It is never really said, but there is the implication that the guards are of the homosexual variety. I guess for a prison fill of scantily clad, sweaty women, you can’t exactly be a horny straight guy, but these guys just run you the wrong way. Of course, their characters aren’t exactly supposed to be the most lovable, are they?

Escape. The final scenes are a daring escape, but it isn’t as daring as one would imagine, especially after all the build up. It was just a bid let down.

The Big Bird Cage can be considered a big bird poop by some. For me, I didn’t love or hate it. Yes, I’m, rather indifferent to this film, which is a shock since it star’s my beloved Pam. Do I recommend it? I can’t that I do, but it won’t hurt you to check it out.

3 out of 5 stars

 

A Low Down Dirty Shame

Posted in Action/Adventure, Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , on July 25, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Andre Shame (Wayans) is a private detective formerly of the LAPD, who left the force after failing to crack the case on drug lord Ernesto Mendoza (Andrew Divoff). The investigation of Mendoza’s case was a personal one for Shame, as his ex-girlfriend Angela (Salli Richardson) was caught in the middle of a love triangle with the two men. Years later, Sonny Rothmiller (Dutton), Shame’s ex-colleague who is now working for the DEA, tells him that the Mendoza case is being re-opened, and though he has his doubts, Shame decides the case is too intriguing to pass on, and tells Sonny to count him in. The situation gets rather complicated when Shame’s old flame Angela resurfaces in his life, and he also realizes that some of his allegiances aren’t what, or whom, they seem to be on the surface.

REVIEW:

For some reason, the Wayans brothers are capable of being hilarious comedic actors and decent enough action stars. Take for instance Keenen Ivory Wayans…in A Low Down Dirty Shame, he gives us some laughs, but also kicks ass and takes names, all without sacrificing the quality of the picture. Did the rest of film deserve similar accolades?

What did I like?

Shaft-ish. Shame seems to be a rip-off of Shaft, or at least he is when he shaves his head and puts on the long coat. As a fan of Samuel L. Jackson’s Shaft, I thought that maybe I wasn’t going to be a fan, but as it turns out, I wasn’t appalled in the least, but rather it fit the character and tone of the film.

Flame on. There is this gay roommate who is actually the funniest part of the film. Yes, he even upstaged Keenen in the funny department! We all know how funny the gays can be, especially in the early 90s when stereotypes ran rampant, and this is a classic case of that. The stereotypical behavior, though, mixed with this guys comedic timing, make for a great character. It really is such a shame that he died of pneumonia before this film was released. I bet he would have gone on to bigger and better things.

Action comedy. Some films try to mix action and comedy, but don’t find a nice balance between the two. This film doesn’t exactly give us a blueprint for mixing them, but it does do a great job of making the funny parts funny and the action parts exciting.

Eureka. While I didn’t particular care for her character, I have to give props to Salli Richardson. You may know her from Black Dynamite or the TV show Eureka. This film was released in 1994 and she doesn’t look like she’s aged a day. As a matter of fact, she looks like a clone of Pam Grier, but she doesn’t fight like her.

What didn’t I like?

Plot. A corrupt DEA agent working for the bad guy who was supposedly killed years ago. Yes, we’ve heard this story, or at least parts of it before many, many times before. I just wish they would have come up with something more original to throw in the mix. There is only so much of the same old, same old one can take.

Jada. There are very few things I actually like her in. She may be a looker, but as an actress, she is downright annoying. Granted, this character is supposed to be the annoying sidekick, which is fine and dandy, but I think she went a bit too far with the annoying part, at least in my opinion.

All in all, A Low Down Dirty Shame is a pretty good film with plenty of enjoyable moments. This is one of those films that makes you wonder why they don’t them like this anymore. With all the dark, heavy films out there nowadays, it is good to go back and watch something much lighter and just plain fun to watch. I highly recommend this.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

The Hunchback on Notre Dame (1939)

Posted in Classics, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on July 25, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Overcome by lust, High Justice Frollo (Cedric Hardwicke) — a religious fraud — dispatches deformed bell-ringer Quasimodo (Charles Laughton) to kidnap winsome gypsy Esmeralda (Maureen O’Hara). But Quasimodo is thwarted and pays for his crime with a public flogging. Esmeralda offers him comfort, and her kindness kindles his passion. When she’s later falsely convicted of murder and condemned to death, only the love-struck Quasimodo can save her.

REVIEW:

I think the majority of people are familiar with this story because of the 1996 Disney version. The 1939 version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, though, actually was the visual basis for much of that film. Watching it this evening, I was able to actually pick up on little things, such as the design of Quasimodo, for instance. One of these days, I am going to get around to reading this book again. In the meantime, I can enjoy the film versions…or can I?

What did I like?

Hunchback. I was initially under the impression that this was a silent film of the horror variety. Something akin to Nosferatu. With that in mind, I had high expectations for Quasimodo. These hopes didn’t waiver when I found out that this was a picture with sound. If anything, I think I was more impressed with Charles Laughton’s take on the character, even if he did resemble Sloth from The Goonies.

Mystery. In the Disney version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Quasimodo isn’t as much a mysterious presence. Granted, this is because that is a more family friendly film…or at least it is supposed to be. In this version, though. Quasimodo is that presence that makes the townspeople uncomfortable, yet intrigued.

Romani. It seems that gypsies are all over the place lately. Well, at least down in my little world they are. Certain people in this house have a sudden gypsy obsession. Anyway, the gypsies play a fairly major role, but not as big as the one they play in other versions. I wonder why this is? Still, their contribution is noted.

What didn’t I like?

King Louis. I don’t believe he plays this major a role in the book and in this film he may be the voice of reason, of sorts, but he seems to be out of place. Frollo is the bad guy, and his brother the cardinal is the apparent good guy, but the king (who doesn’t even look like a king, mind you), he’s just the proverbial creepy uncle you have to invite to family functions.

Connection. I didn’t feel any connection to these characters. They seemed almost one-dimensional at times, which is a crying shame, if you ask me, because Victor Hugo did an excellent job of fleshing them out in his immortal novel, but filmmakers can’t seem to bring that out on film, apparently.

Notre Dame. I was expecting more scenes in Notre Dame. Quasimodo is the bell ringer, after all, but that didn’t happen. We get a few scenes in there, but they’re barely enough to sneeze at. Then again, it isn’t like this was filmed on location, so it might be a good thing that we didn’t get any more scenes in that second-rate re-creation.

For a classic film that is renown as the best interpretation of this novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame delivers on all accounts. Not to sound like a supervillain, but it is sheer elegance in its simplicity. While it isn’t perfect, it does a good job of trying to be. I highly recommend this film. Perhaps even package it with the Disney version and have a Hunchback night of sorts.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

The Thin Man

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , on July 25, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Nick Charles (Powell), a retired detective, and his wife Nora (Loy) are attempting to settle down when he’s pulled back into service by a friend’s disappearance and possible involvement in a murder. The friend, Clyde Wynant (Ellis) (the eponymous “thin man”), has mysteriously vanished just after his former girlfriend, Julia Wolf, was found dead. Wynant quickly becomes the prime suspect, but his daughter Dorothy (O’Sullivan) can’t believe he did it. She convinces Nick to take the case much to the amusement of his socialite wife. The detective stumbles off to find clues, and manages to piece things together through intensive investigation.

The murderer is finally revealed in a classic dinner-party scene that features all of the suspects. A skeletonized body, found during the investigation, had been assumed to be that of a “fat man” due to its being found in clothing from a much heavier man. This clothing is revealed to be a diversion, and the identity of the body is finally revealed, on the basis of an old war wound to the leg, as that of a particular “thin man” instead— the missing Wynant. The murder has been disguised in a way to frame the dead Wynant, by people who have stolen a great deal of money from Wynant and killed him on the night he was last seen.

REVIEW:

In all film history, there is a series of film noires that stands out above all the other. The Thin Man is the first of 5 such films. It has been revered in many circles as one of the top crime films of all time, and with good reason. The million dollar question, though, is what did I think?

What did I like?

Classic device. The film ends with the classic dinner party reveal. You know, where all the suspects are gathered for a fancy dinner party and the detective reveals who the killer is. Yeah, we’ve all seen those on television before. I’m not 100% sure, but this may have been the first instance of the device being used on film.

Misdirection. Who is the thin man? The way the film moves along.  it would have you believe that the star of the picture is the titular character. This is not true, though, as the thin man is actually someone else entirely. Now, why it is that all the other films in this series use him in the title, I can’t tell you.

Comedy. It seems to be that in this era, films were either strictly drama or comedy. The few that did manage the straddle that fine line were musicals. It is good to see a film mix genres from a time when doing so wasn’t exactly commonplace.

What didn’t I like?

Pacing. For some reason, no matter how much I tried, it was just hard for me to keep up with what was going on. I think this was more to do with some distractions outside, rather than an indictment of this film. Gotta love people who drive by with their stereos blaring (and rattling).

Trailer. The trailer for this film has a life-size figure of William Powell. While this was a brilliant advertising tactic, I found myself wondering why this wasn’t in the film, as I’m sure those who saw this film did the same.

The Thin Man provided me with some decent entertainment, but I can’t be sure whether I liked it or not. The fact is that this is a very well made film, as almost all flicks from yesteryear tend to be. With that said, I do highly recommend this, if for no other reason than it should be a film you see before you die.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

The Dilemma

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , on July 22, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film begins with Ronny (Vince Vaughn), his girlfriend Beth (Jennifer Connelly), his best friend Nick (Kevin James), and Nick’s wife Geneva (Winona Ryder) all at dinner. They are sharing stories when Beth asks how long it takes to really know someone. Ronny states that you can never really know someone; Nick disagrees.

At a car show, Ronny is able to get him and Nick a meeting with Dodge in a few days. They celebrate with dinner with their ladies. While Nick and Geneva are dancing, Ronny tells Beth that he really looks up to Nick, who pulls him onto the dance floor. When they switch partners, Geneva tells Ronny that they love Beth and asks Ronny when he is going to propose to her. That evening, Ronny asks Beth if there’s a clock ticking; she says no, but if things progress, she will not be unhappy.

In Detroit for their meeting with Dodge, Ronny tells Nick that he is worked out a deal to get Beth a $20,000 ring for half price if Nick can help by fixing the seller’s car. Nick agrees. In their meeting, they pitch an electric car with the build of a muscle car. Dodge agrees to give them $400,000 for a prototype, and leaves Susan Warner (Queen Latifah) as their supervisor. She is extremely enthusiastic about working with them. Nick worries that he is going to fail with his engine design; Ronny reassures him.

Later, he mentions this to Beth, who is a chef, and asks how he is doing, concerned that he is feeling overwhelmed. (Ronny had a very serious gambling problem two years prior.) He promises that he is fine then heads to a botanical garden to arrange the proposal. While he is there, he catches a glimpse of Geneva, whom he follows. He walks through poisonous plants and is caught by the manager just as he sees Geneva kiss a young man (Channing Tatum). He is read all of the horrible side effects of the plants, (painful urination, hallucinations, etc.) and gets kicked out. He later lies to Beth about how he got the rash, and when he re-enacts it, he drops a stack of money, which Beth sees. He lies again saying that he is paying his parts suppliers, which she doesn’t appear to believe.

He goes to work to tell Nick, but does not when Nick yells at him. He calls his sister for advice, but she assumes he is talking about her husband, so that fails too. Nick later apologizes, and before Ronny can say anything, Beth and Geneva come to take them out for a break. They go to a Blackhawks hockey game. Geneva goes for beer; Ronny follows and confronts her. She tries to explain, then accuses Nick of getting “massages” every Thursday. She promises that the affair is over, and she will tell Nick once the car is finished.

At the office later, Nick inquires about why Ronny’s dragging his feet with the proposal. Ronny tries to probe about possibly getting a massage; Nick feigns ignorance. Ronny later follows him to the massage parlor. He then calls Geneva to apologize, but hears her with the young man, Zip. She tells him to meet her at a diner, where she tells Ronny that she will deny the affair and tell Nick that Ronny has been hitting on her, and revealing a fling they had back in college (before she and Nick ever met). She leaves telling Ronny to stay out of her marriage.

At home the next morning, Ronny answers a call for Beth, but the caller hangs up. He calls back, and gets the number to a corporate office that is opening a restaurant in Vegas. He later gets a call from Susan, warning him that Dodge has another competitor working on a similar project. Afterwards, he follows Geneva to Zip’s and photographs them together. Kids start skateboarding nearby, so he can’t leave, making him late for Beth’s parents’ 40th anniversary party. When Geneva leaves, he is caught by Zip, and they get into a fight. Ronny fights his way out of the house using hairspray and a candle as a torch…but Zip catches up to him outside, damaging Ronny’s car with a baseball bat. He demands to know what Ronny was doing in his house, and Ronny tells him he is best friends with Geneva’s husband. He calls Zip garbage for sleeping with Geneva, and then leaves as Zip starts to cry. Ronny cleans himself up then heads to the party, where he makes a long, inappropriate speech about honesty, secretly aimed at Geneva, who is also in attendance. Beth takes him aside and begs him to be honest with her, so he asks about the Vegas restaurant. She explains that she was offered a job, but declined because she does not trust him in Vegas. He leaves and spends the night at the office.

He goes back to Zip’s to get his camera. Zip answers the door with a gun, and insists that Ronny come in, because he read that he could legally shoot someone in self defense if they enter your home. Ronny refuses to enter, and Zip starts crying again about Ronny killing his fish, due to the fact that Ronny accidentally destroyed his fish tank during their fight the other night. He demands that Ronny give him $10,000 for damages, but settles for $1000 and an apology and gives him back his camera. Nick arrives after Ronny leaves, having followed him there suspecting Zip was a bookie, and Ronny was borrowing money for gambling.

Ronny goes back home to find Beth, Nick, his sister, Geneva, and his gambling sponsor holding an intervention for him. Zip shows up seconds later, claiming to be his bookie. Ronny lashes out at him and hits him. When Zip leaves, Ronny explains that he is not gambling, he is been acting weird because he found out a week ago that Geneva was having an affair with Zip and did not know how to tell Nick. Surprisingly, Geneva admits the affair. Ronny also confesses to the college fling. Nick is outraged and leaves.

Ronny comes home later after going for a walk. He tells Beth he brought her something to eat and they apologize for not trusting each other. She opens the bag of food and finds an engagement ring inside, and accepts his proposal.

At the meeting the next morning, Nick tells Ronny he moved out, then hits Ronny twice for not telling him the truth. He makes Ronny promise to be honest even if it hurts. They make up and head into the meeting, where Nick unveils the prototype car. Through his extensive research and tuning, he was able to make the new eco-friendly Dodge Charger sound and perform just like the classic 1968 Dodge Charger. Dodge is impressed with the prototype and give Nick and Ronny the contract.

At a Blackhawks game some time later, Nick finally gets a chance to try a challenge he always claimed he could do. He fails twice, but on his third attempt, Ronny gives Nick the coach’s dramatic speech from the film Miracle, and he gets the puck into a net, winning a chance to go to an all-star game. Ronny runs onto the ice to celebrate with him before they are both escorted off.

REVIEW:

Have you ever been in the situation where your best friend’s significant other is cheating with someone and you happen to cath them? How do you handle that situation? That is the dilemma in The Dilemma. A decent plot, but unfortunately, it isn’t executed with as much thought as was put into spawning the idea.

What did I like?

Story. The plot is a great idea. I’m sure there are more than a few guy/gals out there that have been in this situation. Having not been in it myself, I can’t say anything about it, though, but it is still intriguing to me.

Cast. With the exception of Vince Vaughn, I love this cast. It is good to see Winona Ryder and Jennifer Connelly come out of hiding (though I wish it was for a better film), Queen Latifah is as great as she can be in such a severely limited role, and Channing Tatum is hilarious.

Auto industry. I can’t remember what the last film that involved the auto industry, in a good way, was. It was good to see that struggling enterprise get some light. Even better, was the fact that these guys owned their own company and were making their own way without being swallowed by some bug company.

What didn’t I like.

Vince. I’m sorry Vince Vaughn fans, but I just didn’t care for him. He seemed like he was just trying too hard, or maybe I’m just tired of his schtick. Kevin James, who is usually the butt of fat guy jokes (he won’t be in his new movie where he dropped 80 lbs, though), actually wasn’t here, yet Vince Vaughn was still playing this borderline ADHD guy who won’t shut up and is also very sweaty. It just wasn’t working for me.

Dilemma. The way this whole thing played out just seemed to be carelessly thought out. I get why they didn’t tell Kevin James right away. If they had, there wouldn’t have been much of a film. However, the time between finding out about the infidelity and the reveal seemed to have been filler, rather than some actual plot points and comedy scenes to move the film forward and entertain the audience.

Gay. In this day and age where everyone is so sensitive, the writer’s should have known better than to put the line “Electric cars are gay.” in there. That was just uncalled for and the fact that it made it into the final cut is appalling.

The Dilemma is a decent film, but not one that you will remember 5 minutes after the credits roll. I honestly can’t recommend it for any reason, but if you must check it out, then more power to you.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars