Archive for September, 2012

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked

Posted in Comedy, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 29, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

For a vacation, Dave (Jason Lee) and the Chipmunks go on a cruise ship. The Chipmunks and Chipettes turn the ship into their personal playground causing trouble and running amok as they will. Dave notices that his old boss, Ian Hawke (David Cross) is working as a safety monitor on the cruise. Alvin goes para-sailing on a kite and he flies away with the other chipmunks. Dave goes on a hang glider to find them with Ian and they both end up in the ocean.

Meanwhile, the six chipmunks find an island and they sleep for the night. Dave enlists Ian’s help to find the same island and begin looking for the six chipmunks. The next morning, the chipmunks go and find food and while doing so, an island castaway named Zoe (Jenny Slate) shows up and sees the Chipmunks and Chipettes for the first time. They then go to Zoe’s tree house and Simon gets bitten by a spider, the side effects including personality changes and loss of inhibition.

The morning after, everyone observes Simon’s personality has changed and he becomes a French, adventurous chipmunk named Simone. Simone asks Jeanette to dance to Alvin’s dismay. Later, Zoe takes Simone, Jeanette, Eleanor and Theodore to a waterfall and Simone finds a cave. He returns with a gold bracelet which he gives to Jeanette. Brittany and Alvin see an active volcano the next day and they decide to leave the island. Theodore and Simone find Dave and Ian and they go to meet with the other chipmunks. They all begin to prepare a raft to get them off the island and everyone is assigned a job. When Jeanette and Simone go and look for food, Zoe kidnaps Jeanette and Simone gets knocked unconscious, and reverted to normal.

Everyone finds Simon awake and he cannot remember anything since the bite. They discover that Zoe has taken Jeanette and they head towards the waterfall. When they approached the tree log to cross, Dave and Alvin decide they’ll go and find Jeanette. As Zoe forces Jeanette to get the treasure by tying her to a rope, Alvin and Dave come to her rescue. The island begins to rumble again and Zoe let go of the rope and Jeanette runs with Dave and Alvin back to the raft. When they reach the log to cross, Dave almost falls.

Alvin and Ian convince Zoe to help save Dave. They then run towards the raft and escape the eruption. While on the raft, Zoe apologizes to Jeanette for kidnapping her and forcing her to get the treasure. As a gift, Jeanette gives Zoe the gold bracelet that Simon had given to her. Alvin reconciles with Dave and they are rescued. The Chipmunks and Chipettes perform at the International Music Awards.

In the post-credit scenes, the Chipmunks, the Chipettes, and Dave are on a plane heading back home. Alvin is speaking on the pilot’s microphone that the plane’s destination is set for Timbuktu, accidentally pushes the food cart, and it hits Dave.

REVIEW:

There comes a point when a franchise passes the point of being a franchise and becomes nothing more than a cash grab. What is a cash grab? Well, it is where a film is so bad that it is obvious it was only made so that studios can wrangle a few more bucks out of us poor moviegoers. A good example of this is Shrek the Third. Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked follows suit and does nothing but provide an excuse for there to be more merchandising.

What is this about?

When Alvin and the Chipmunks board a luxury cruise liner for a little R&R with Dave and the Chipettes, they naturally get themselves into trouble … and end up “chipwrecked” castaways on a deserted tropical island.

What did I like?

Back to basics. The last two films seem to have had our heroes departing from the behavior that we all know and loved them to have. The behaviour they exhibit in this installment is more reminiscent of what they had in the Saturday morning cartoon (80s version, since that’s the one I grew up on).

Different. The previous two films have involved Ian conning and subsequently kidnapping the chipmunks and chippettes in a selfish act to further his career. This time around we actually make it through the entire film without any group being kidnapped. I say group because one of them does get snatched up.

Simon/Simone. Simon starts off the film as a bit of a nagging, overprotective type, perhaps even more so that he normally does. Following the bite from a particular breed of spider, he is the victim of a personality change, which results in him becoming Simone. Simone is a French adventurer and ladies’ man who fears nothing; the polar opposite of Simon. I”m not sure which I prefer, but it was nice to see Simon loosen up a bit.

What didn’t I like?

Ian. He made for a great villain in the first film. Last go around he felt recycled and this time around it is more like they just stuck him in there for…well, I don’t really know why. David Cross has been outspoken with his thoughts on this film, and I can’t blame him. There really was no reason for him to be in it, let alone spend the whole time in a pelican costume. That being said, he does seem as if he has turned over a new leaf. Then again, what is the point of kidnapping them if there is nowhere to take them to?

Jenny. Jenny Slate plays this girl, Zoe, who they run across on the island. Everything about her just seems off, especially the sudden change in her character. I didn’t quite understand why they brought her in, why they made the constant reference to Castaway, or why they shoehorned in this mysterious underwater cave full of treasure that she spent years on the island looking for. What were they thinking?!?

Island. It seems that anything we get a film that has an island it has to be subject to some kind of disaster, usually a volcano. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island was nothing more than an island experiencing every natural disaster known to man, this one has volcanoes, and I can imagine that the next island picture is sure to be in danger of something like, oh I don’t know, a meteor coming to wipe it out? One of these days, maybe we’ll get an island that won’t deal with such things and can just be an island out there.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked will hopefully be the last time we see them on the big screen. Enough is enough and, as I said before, this is nothing more than a cash grab. When I heard they were making this, I was appalled, and the finished product did nothing to change my mind. Having said that, I belive that kids will enjoy it, but their parents and chipmunk fans may not be so easily fooled. I do not recommend this to anyone but those that ether want to finish the trilogy (I use that term lightly), or parents of young children.

3 out of 5 stars

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The 6th Man

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , on September 29, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film begins showing Antoine (Hardison) and Kenny (Wayans) Tyler as children playing in a game of basketball. Their father is coaching the team and directs Kenny to get the last shot for the win since the team is down by one point. Kenny sets up for the game winning shot, but scared to take it, he passes it off to his brother, who goes in for a layup and misses it. The film then goes to the boys talking about the game and practicing with their father at home.

The film then fast forwards to present-day and both Antoine and Kenny are attending the University of Washington and make up a duo on the basketball team. The duo is known as “A&K” and the slogan for them is “A&K All the Way”, given by their mother who is shown in the little league in the opening scene holding the sign, and the Tyler brothers look at the sign embarrassed by it. The team goes out to a night club to celebrate their most recent win. During this outing, Kenny meets his future love interest, R.C. St. John (played by Michael Michele), a reporter for UW. The two meet when Kenny spills beer in RC’s purse. It then fast forwards to Washington playing a road game. The game shows them as being a dominate 1-2 punch. Later in the game, on a fast-break, Antoine dunks the ball, but suffers an unexpected heart attack while hanging on the rim, causing him to fall to the floor. He is carried off the court on a stretcher and rushed to the hospital. The assistant coach, Coach Nicholls, rides in the ambulance with Antoine. While in the ambulance, he flatlines, EMTs attempt to resuscitate him but are unsuccessful and he is pronounced dead. The team finishes the game without Antoine and Kenny rushes to be with him, but he is met by Coach Pederson, the head coach. Pederson precedes to tell him “We lost him”, point guard Danny O’Grady replies “What coach for the season?” Kenny says “I told that boy to stop dunking like he’s Jordan. What’d he do, separate his shoulder?” To which the coach replies while choking up, “Antoine died on the way to the university hos-hospital.” Kenny, crushed by the news cries into his coach’s shoulder. The film then shows the team’s reaction to the news in the locker room. It cuts to the team retiring Antoine’s number. The rest of the season, the team wears a black patch with Antoine’s number on it.

The team begins falling apart after Antoine’s death. Antoine’s spirit returns after Kenny asks for his help. Kenny first freaks out and starts running around the locker room scared. After finally realizing it’s Antoine, the two share an embrace. Kenny gets excited but Antoine tells him that he is the only that can see him. The team, who begins to think he’s crazy, confronts him. After telling his teammates, why he has been acting weird, the team is reluctant to believe Kenny. Antoine helps Danny O’Grady dunk from the 3 point line. After sinking the dunk, the team still refuses to believe it. Antoine, obviously angry they still don’t believe him, begins doing supernatural work such as possessing the big screen in the arena. They finally believe him. So Antoine begins to help out the team out in games by possessing various objects such as a basketball in one scene, and one other scene where he sits on the rim knocking out the ball each time the opposing team attempts to shoot a basket.

The team seems begins to rally around their 6th man, and begins to storm through the competition with the help of Antoine and eventually make it to the NCAA tournament, for the first time in “years” as characters in the film say (in reality at the time the movie had been filmed it like it had been 10 years). The team rallies through the NCAA Tournament and makes it to the national championship. The week before the championship game, they realize using Antoine to win isn’t right. While they confront Kenny on the matter, as one member states “He’s a ballhog man. He was when he was alive and, no disrespect, he’s even worse as a dead man.” After hearing this Antoine becomes angry and in a fit of supernatural power almost wrecks the room. After calming down, Antoine relents to Kenny that he never wanted to die, that he had things he wanted to do and he had plans, Kenny sadly tells Antoine he understands. However when Antoine asks if Kenny really wants him to go he will, Kenny tells the team he wants Antoine to stay. This is obvious because he doesn’t want to lose his brother again. During the championship game, Antoine is shown to be disappointed, because he is having trouble with the fact the team doesn’t want his help anymore. The team plays poorly in the first half of the championship game. At halftime, Kenny gives a speech to fire the team up. The team comes out on fire and pulls within 2. Kenny gets the ball as the final seconds begin to tick off, Kenny throws a potential game winning 3 pointer, after releasing the shot, Antoine appears to assure the shot goes in, but Kenny shouts at him “ANT NO!!! Let it go.” The shot goes in on its own. The movie ends with Antoine and Kenny speaking to each other and Antoine disappearing into a beam of light, which is perceived to be heaven. Coach Pederson, who saw the light, asks Kenny “That’s our 6th man , isn’t it?” To which, Kenny replies, “Yeah, coach. A and K, all the way baby.”

REVIEW:

Basketball comedies in the 90s were a dime a dozen, with Space Jam being the leader (and best) of the pack. Of course when you’re starring Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny, as well as have a soundtrack featuring a then uber popular R. Kelly, it was destined for success. One of the basketball films that is always forgotten, though, is The 6th Man. As a matter of fact, I think this came out the same year.

What is this about?

Antoine and Kenny Tyler are two basketball-playing brothers at the University of Washington. Tragically, Antoine — the eldest and the hotshot superstar — dies on the court from a mysterious heart ailment, and his kid brother is left to hold the team together. Things look grim for the team … until Antoine’s ghost shows up with more than a few pointers. Will he be able to help the team return to the their winning ways, even though he’s not there anymore? Or will the fall from the top be even harder?

What did I like?

Balance. Being able to find a balance between showing what is going on off and on the court is something that basketball films struggle with. Scratch that, sports movies in general can’t seem to find a happy balance. Many don’t know whether they want to focus more on the players’ lives or the sport. Thank goodness this film finds a happy medium. Why can’t other films of its ilk follow suit?

There’s a girl. Yes, there is a love interest, but, believe it or not, she isn’t center stage. As a matter of fact, they really downplay her, with a couple of exceptions. I also have to give them props for having her be a reporter and not some cheerleader/dancer skank (no offense to those cheerleader/dancers who may be reading this). I am impressed that they decided an athlete should be with a girl who has a brain, rather than a constantly on display body.

Coach. Often time it is forgotten the many jobs coaches have. They have to be mentors, counselors, teachers, as well as coaches. The head coach really shows this throughout the entire film. Think back to the number of coaches that have been on film, not many of them have been allowed to show this range.

What didn’t I like?

Brothers. I’m not really sure what to think of the chemistry between Marlon Wayans and Kadeem Hardison. It wasn’t bad, but it just seems to me that Shawn Wayans would have worked better as the big brother…mainly becuase he really is the big brother, if I”m not mistaken. I don’t want to take anything away from Kadeem, but I wonder why they didn’t go for Shawn, or if they did and couldn’t get him for scheduling purposes.

Ghost logic. Almost every chance they get, the brothers’ father, who we see in the opening scene, is mentioned. The way they keep forcing him down our throats, you’d think he’d have made an appearance later in the film. Nope! I wonder why that is? Seems to me like they could have at least mentioned that he sent Antoine back down or he could have been waiting when Antoine goes back. Neither scenario happened, though.

Seen it all before. It seems as though this formula has been seen many times before. Something happens to the team’s star player and they can’t win. Suddenly he comes back to help them and the next thing you know they’re in the championship, not wanting his help anymore. Recycling the ghost angle is fine with me, but the whole plot from some other films is a bit much. I guess even in 1997, Hollywood couldn’t come up with an original thought.

The 6th Man delivers a few laughs here and there and is a fairly entertaining film. However, the fact that we’ve seen this done before, and better, ruins the prospect of being a good flick. Do I recommend this film? Yes, but hesitantly. It is a good watch on late night television or an afternoon Netflix instant viewing (if they ever put it on there), but I wouldn’t go out of my way to rent/buy it.

3 out of 5 stars

Stormy Weather

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , on September 26, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Lena Horne, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Cab Calloway and Fats Waller star in this 1940s musical comedy that’s light on plot line but brimming with sensational song and dance numbers by the top African-American performers of the day. Highlights include Horne’s soulful “Stormy Weather,” Robinson’s lively stepping to “African Dance” and Waller’s “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” Dooley Wilson, Ada Brown and the Nicholas Brothers round out the talented cast.

REVIEW:

One of my favorite jazz standards is “Stormy Weather”. There is something that is just so haunting about that melody. Couple that with the lyrics and you have one of the greatest songs ever written, in my opinion. I’ve been watching the Ken Burns documentary on jazz and Stormy Weather was briefly mentioned, so I figured I might as well give it a shot, if for nothing else than to get a glimpse of a young Lena Horne and hear this immortal tune.

What is this about?

Dancing great Bill ‘Williamson’ sees his face on the cover of Theatre World magazine and reminisces: just back from World War I, he meets lovely singer Selina Rogers at a soldiers’ ball and promises to come back to her when he “gets to be somebody.” Years go by, and Bill and Selina’s rising careers intersect only briefly, since Selina is unwilling to “settle down.” Will the old flame be rekindled?

What did I like?

Music. This film is fairly short, with a runtime of just over an hour, but it manages to feature some 20 songs. Most of them, as with any other musical are just fluff pieces, but there are a few catchy tunes, highlighted bu the titular song which is so eloquently performed by Lena Horne. There are also great performances by FAts Waller, Cab Calloway, and some great dancers.

Revolutionary. At thie point in American history, there weren’t many films being made that even featured African-Americans as extras, let alone starred an entire cast. This and Cabin in the Sky hold that distinction. A great big kudos to this film for opening some doors.

Lena Horne. My first introduction to the talented last, as with many of you I’m sure, was on The Cosby Show. It wasn’t until fairly recently that I knew she was an actual singer, and a damn fine one at that! The lady has acting and singing chops and, if this film weren’t about Bill, I firmly believe they would have really showcased her many talents to a higher level.

What didn’t I like?

Big finish. We end with a big finish, which for a musical, is sort of expected. The random appearance of Cab Calloway to get us to that big finish was just…odd. I just didn’t understand why Bill couldn’t have just ended up at the club and Cab would have been performing, other than having to find a way to get away from all his nieces/granddaughters, or whatever they were.

Continuity. With Bill telling this in flashbacks, I found myself having trouble latching onto any continuity among the story. It was a bit all over the place for my taste. I felt they could have done a better job with the storytelling.

Blackface. I’ve never been a fan of blackface. Racial stuff aside, I just don’t care for it. So, you can imagine how much of a fan I was of these two guys that donned the make up about midway through the film. I just didn’t care for such tactics.

Stormy Weather may be mostly known as a film that was built around a song. I don’t know if that is the truth, but it wouldn’t surprise me. If you were to ask me if I recommend this classic black & white musical, then I have to say yes. However, be warned that this is the kind of film that isn’t necessarily for everyone. Some viewers will surely not care for the music or the fact that there are no explosions, special effects, or anything else that we have poisoned our minds with in today’s cinema.

4 out of 5 stars

The Pirates! Band of Misfits

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film is set in 1837. The Pirate Captain, inexpert in the ways of pirates, leads a close-knit, rag-tag group of amateur pirates who are trying to make a name for themselves on the high seas. To prove himself and his crew, the Pirate Captain enters the Pirate of the Year competition, with the winner being whoever can plunder the most. After several failed attempts to plunder mundane ships, the Pirate Captain talks with his close first mate, the Pirate with a Scarf, about giving up and selling baby clothes as a living, but is convinced to try boarding the next ship they find, which happens to be the Beagle. They find no treasure but succeed in capturing Charles Darwin. Darwin recognizes the crew’s pet Polly as the last living dodo, and implores the Pirate Captain to enter it into the Scientist of the Year competition at the Royal Academy in London for a valuable prize. The Pirate Captain directs his ship to London, despite being warned of Queen Victoria’s hatred for pirates.

Darwin desires to win the Scientist prize on his own in order to impress Queen Victoria, on whom he has a crush. He uses Mr. Bobo, his trained chimpanzee who was from an old theory that parodies his own theory, to try to steal Polly. The Pirate with the Scarf witnesses the kidnapping but the attempt goes awry after alerting the other pirates. Darwin avoids implicating himself much to the Pirate with the Scarf’s frustration, but now the Pirate Captain insists on hiding the bird and entering the competition on his own. The display of the dodo takes the top prize: a minuscule trophy, an Encyclopedia set and an opportunity to meet the Queen. During the ceremony, the Pirate Captain accidentally reveals his pirate identity, but Darwin convinces the Queen to spare the Captain’s life because he knows the location of Polly. The Queen lets the Captain go free with a full pardon, but orders Darwin to locate the dodo by any means necessary.

Darwin takes the Pirate Captain to a tavern, and the latter ultimately reveals that he had stashed Polly in his beard. Darwin and Mr. Bobo are able to capture Polly and are chased by the Captain up into the Tower of London, where the Queen is waiting. The Queen quickly dismisses Darwin and Mr. Bobo, and then offers the Pirate Captain a large amount of treasure in exchange for the bird. Soon, the Pirate Captain reunites with his crew with his newfound wealth, stating that Polly is sleeping within his beard, and sets off for the Pirate of the Year ceremony. The Pirate with a Scarf expresses doubt to the validity of the Captain’s story.

At the ceremony, the Pirate Captain wins the grand prize from the Pirate King, but rival pirate Black Bellamy makes the Queen’s pardon revealed to all pirates in attendance. The Captain is stripped of the prize, his plunder, and his pirating licensing, and on learning that he lied about Polly’s fate, his crew abandons him as well. The Captain returns alone to London to sell baby clothes, but soon becomes determined to free Polly. He re-encounters a now-devastated Darwin, who has learned that the Queen is part of a rare animal eaters’ society with several other world leaders who are now aboard her steamship, the QV1, waiting to eat Polly and several other rare animals. The Pirate Captain enlists Darwin’s help to steal a dirigible and rescue Polly.

Aboard the QV1, the Pirate Captain and Darwin disrupt the meal, and are soon joined by the rest of the Captain’s crew, having been informed by Mr. Bobo of his need. The Queen locates them and after justifying her reasons behind her hatred of pirates, attempts to kill both of them, but together they best her. In the battle, they accidentally mix the ship’s store of baking powder with vinegar, causing a violent reaction that rends the ship in two. The Pirate Captain rescues Polly and they escape safely, leaving behind a furious Queen.

With his reputation among pirates restored because of the large bounty now on his head, the Pirate Captain and his crew continue to explore the high seas in search of adventure. They leave Darwin on the Galapagos Islands, where he finally finds a girlfriend, and Mr. Bobo joins the Captain’s crew. As for the Queen, she is left at the mercy of some of the rare animals she had planned on eating

REVIEW:

Pirates became exceedingly popular not that far back, thanks to Johnny Depp’s Jack Sparrow. Many of us thought that to have been a fad, but apparently, pirates, like vampires, are here to stay. However, a kids film about pirates might be the nail in the coffin. Then agin, those vegetables did not too long ago and nothing happened, so who am I to think that The Pirates! Band of Misfits would do any better. Of course, keep in mind, I like pirates.

What is this about?

This animated tale follows a pirate captain from the high seas to the streets of London as he strives to win the Pirate of the Year Award. But to snag the coveted prize, he’ll have to beat his dreaded rivals Black Bellamy and Cutlass Liz. Will he succeed in this task, as well as fight off the evil Queen Victoria?

What did I like?

Animation. It is no secret that I prefer stop motion to CGI. It just looks cleaner and there is more care put into rather than just clicking on a computer. I don’t care for the mixture of the two, but at least they didn’t rely solely on CGI, which is always a plus in my book.

Comedy. Unlike other pirate films of late, these pirates are a light-hearted bunch. With that in mind, one can guess that the tone of this film is anything but dark. There many great comedic moments throughout the picture, with jokes for the young and um, not-so-young.

Voices. The voice casting is sensational. Headlined by Hugh Grant as the Pirate Captain and Imelda Staunton as the evil Queen Victoria, this sensational group of British actors (as well as Salma Hayek, Jeremy Piven and Al Roker in small roles) , really sell their characters.

What didn’t I like?

You dodo. One of my favorite underrated Bugs Bunny cartoons has to do with him finding the last dodo. When I first saw the bird here, I immediately knew he/she was a dodo. This begs to question why it is that the pirates couldn’t figure out the difference between a parrot and a dodo bird. Are they that daft?!?

Title. In the UK, this called The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists. For some reason, though, someone decided it would be a good idea to change the title when it came across the pond. Don’t ask me why because it makes no sense to me. What exactly was wrong with the original title? I would like to know!

Darwin, Salma, and curvy pirate. Whatever your side is on the creation debate, you can’t help but notice that Darwin was sed more as a villain in this film, leading me to believe that the filmmaker doesn’t care for the Darwin school of thought. Salma Hayek’s character was just as voluptuous as her, though quite thinner, but I can’t say I cared for her. Maybe it was the gap in her teeth, or the murderous intent she almost always had. Women often masqueraded as men to join pirate crews, we all know that. Like with the dodo, though, I don’t see how Pirate Captain, and the rest of the crew missed the fact that she was a girl. Something just seemed off about that, then again, it might have been for comedic effect.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits provides the audience with many laughs, some action, and just a good ol’ fun time. The stop motion is great and a welcome change from all the CGI we see everywhere, though I think if they would have gone all out with it, the finished product would have been much better, as can be seen with Mary and Max. Do I recommend this? Yes, I do. A few minor complaints aside, this is a flick that should be high up on your must-see family flick list.

4 out of 5 stars

The Challenge (It Takes a Thief)

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews with tags , , on September 26, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Billie and Kristy lead a gang of armed robbers who steal from banks, armoured cars, and the like. When Billie’s lover, Jim, gets caught by the police after stashing a large amount of money, they wait for him to get out of jail. He does and has to deal with both the police and his ex-gang as they both need him to get what they want. Things become more complicated when Kristy kidnaps Jim’s son and threatens to kill him if Jim doesn’t come up with the buried loot.

REVIEW:

I was asked the other day by a fellow Jayne Mansfield fan how anyone can not love her. Well, I have finally come up with an answer. Her later movies are the reason she isn’t as beloved as Marilyn, or at least that is one of the chief reasons. The Challenge or It Takes a Thief (as it is known here in the US) is not her best work, but it does show her acting chops.

What is this about?

Jayne Mansfield makes a departure from her usual roles to play tough girl Billy in this dark crime story. Set in London during the 1960s, the film casts Mansfield as the ringleader of a band of robbers. After a failed heist, her boyfriend, Jim (Anthony Quayle), is captured, but not before he stashes the booty in a secret hiding place. Now, Billy and her crew are on a desperate hunt to find the treasure before anyone else does. Will they succeed? Will there be complications along the way?

What did I like?

Jayne. Yeah, you knew this was going to be one of things. Strangely enough, two of her best assets were not on display, and yet I was still as enamored with her as always. Aside from her looks, she does really show some acting range in that she isn’t doing her typical ditzy blonde schtick, but rather a cold, dark woman with one thing on her mind.

Pacing. I saw how short this film and it took me by surprise. I expected a film like this and from this particular era to be a bit lengthy, but instead it is only 70 minutes. Believe you me, if you blink you’ll miss something. The flick flies by at a breakneck pace.

What didn’t I like?

Look. I am a fan of film noir, but the look of this particular film was off-putting. For some reason, it felt more like a television movie than  full-length motion picture. I really don’t know why it has that particular aesthetic, but it does, to the viewers dismay.

To save her career. This is not an American film. Jayne Mansfield had to go overseas to keep her career going in her later years. The result of her trek over there are a slew of subpar films that did more damage to her career than good, at least in my opinion.

The Challenge is another in a line of so-so films that have all but tainted my view of Jayne Mansfield. For a classic film, it isn’t that great. Judging it as a film noir, it is ok, at best, and as a Jayne film, it just doesn’t cut the mustard. All those varying viewpoints aside, the final verdict on this is that it is a below average film that exists. That’s really all I can say about it.

2 3/4 out of 5 stars

Ocean’s 13

Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 23, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould), in an attempt to legitimize himself in his later years, is conned by Willy Bank (Al Pacino), his former business partner. When Bank forces Tishkoff to sign over the ownership rights of the new hotel/casino they were building together, Reuben suffers a heart attack and becomes bed-ridden. Daniel Ocean (George Clooney), after attempting to negotiate with Bank, gathers up his partners-in-crime and plans to ruin Bank on the opening night of his hotel-casino, “The Bank”, to get revenge for Reuben.

The first of two plans is to prevent “The Bank” from winning the prestigious Five Diamond Award, which Bank has previously won with all of his previous hotels. Saul Bloom (Carl Reiner) poses as the reviewer of the board, while the real reviewer (David Paymer), is treated horribly during his stay through Ocean’s associates and the staff on their payroll.

The second plan is to rig the casino’s slot machines and other games to force a pay out more than $500 million in winnings across the casino; this will force Bank to cede control of the casino to his board. Rigging of the games would require them to defeat “The Greco Player Tracker”, a state-of-the-art artificial intelligence system that monitors the games and ensures that all winnings are legitimate, by measuring the players’ biometric responses for authenticity. They plan to trick Bank into carrying a cell phone with a magnetron, created by technical expert Roman Nagel (Eddie Izzard), to disrupt the Greco. To assure that players cash out, Ocean’s team acquires one of the giant drills used to bore the Channel Tunnel, to simulate an earthquake under the hotel on opening night.

While the group prepares the rigged games, the drill breaks, forcing them to approach Terry Benedict (Andy García), one of the previous people they stole from, to fund the purchase of the second drill. While Benedict has a grudge against Bank and is willing to help, he only offers Ocean the funds if they also steal the 4 Five Diamond Awards, now on display in a secured case at the top level of the hotel. Ocean plans for Linus Caldwell (Matt Damon) to seduce Bank’s assistant, Abigail Sponder (Ellen Barkin), to gain access to the display and switch the diamonds with fakes.

As Ocean’s plan proceeds on opening night, agents from the FBI have been tipped off that machines have been rigged by Livingston Dell (Eddie Jemison) (although in reality this allows Livingston to have the card-dealing machines removed, as he was unable to actually rig them) and have identified him, which may reveal the rest of Ocean’s gang to Bank. Basher (Don Cheadle) distracts Bank long enough to allow Virgil (Casey Affleck) and Turk Malloy (Scott Caan) to change the group’s FBI records, including their names and appearances.

Linus, in the process of seducing Sponder in the secure room with the diamonds, is interrupted by the lead FBI agent. He explains the diamond-theft plan to Sponder, and Linus is arrested, but as they exit in the elevator, the lead agent is revealed to be his father, Bobby (Bob Einstein), who is in on Ocean’s plan and there to help Linus swap the diamonds. As they exit to the roof of the hotel for extraction via helicopter, they are caught by François “The Night Fox” Toulour (Vincent Cassel), whom Benedict had ordered to intercept the diamonds. Linus gives the diamonds to Toulour, who leaves, but discovers he only holds the fakes after departing; Ocean had been aware of Toulour’s presence, and arranged to extract the entire display case from the hotel with a helicopter.

The remainder of Ocean’s plan continues as expected, with “The Greco” disrupted, and guests leaving the hotel with their huge winnings. As Bank realizes his ruin, Ocean lets him know that they did everything for Reuben, taunting him about the fact that Bank cannot even arrange for revenge as he cannot prove that Ocean did anything illegal. The group uses the money they made off with to buy property north of the Las Vegas Strip for Reuben to build his own casino. As punishment for Benedict’s treachery, Ocean donates his portion of the take to charity, all $72 Million; forcing Benedict to publicly admit his philanthropy via TV appearances. As the group disperses on their own and considers settling down, Rusty ensures that the real Five Diamond reviewer is compensated by allowing him to win an $11 million jackpot at a rigged slot machine at the airport.

REVIEW:

Concluding a trilogy that was spawned from a remake, Ocean’s 13 recaptures the magic and Vegas-ness that was missing from the previous film. Throw in the great Al Pacino and there is surely no way this film can be but a total success, right?

What is this about?

Return to Las Vegas for the further criminal exploits of Danny Ocean and company in the continuation of this all-star caper franchise that finds the gang gets revenge on a double-crossing Vegas kingpin on the opening night of his new casino.

What did I like?

Music. Ocean’s 11 had lots of swinging jazz that, even though it was set in modern day, puts the audience in the mindset of the days of the original rat pack. These swinging standards were missing from the last film, but make a return in this one, albeit in a remixed form. I guess it is better than nothing, right?

Bark. Ellen Barkin is definitely no dog. She is quite the betty, if I do say so myself. Along with those looks, she has some nice acting chops, and they used both to their maximum potential. The only thing that would have been better is if she would have ended up being the mastermind behind the whole thing, going back to the first film. A twist that would have come out of nowhere, for sure, but you gotta admit, it would have been a doozy!

Finale. I have to admit, I thought that this was going to have some kind of strange open-ended ending that may or may not leave it open for another film, but they did manage to bring to a nice ending. For a series like this, it is nice to know that they brought it on home so nicely.

What didn’t I like?

Music. I mentioned earlier that I liked how they brought back the jazz standards. I didn’t care for what they did with them, however. These modern “improvements” serve no purpose other than to piss off jazz aficionados, such as myself. Someone please tell me what harm it would have been to actually use some Sammy, Dean, and/or Frank original songs, because I would really like to know!

Girl power. Apparently, there were some script issues that kept Julia Roberts and Catherine Zeta-Jones from appearing in this one. I’m not aware of what those issues were, but they exist, none the same. My problem is not so much with them not being around, but rather the way they are just mentioned as footnote in the opening scene. I belive it is said about 3 or 4 times that “…this isn’t their fight”, but after that never a mention of them again. For Zeta-Jones’ character, I can live with, but Roberts was major factor, not to mention Danny’s wife, so why the brush-off? Couldn’t the have found a way to work this stuff out?

Pacino. When you bring in a heavy hitter such as Al Pacino, then you would think that he would take it up a notch. I hate to say this, because I have a tremendous amount of respect for him, but he didn’t quite light up the screen the way I thought he would. It just seemed to be that he could have done better, as we’ve seen him do before.

Ocean’s 13 brings this trilogy to an end, but the question remains…did this even need to be a trilogy? I can’t really answer that, as I’m not really a fan fo there having been a remake in the first place. However, as far as this film goes, it is a strong entry in the franchise, almost as good as the first. Do I recommend this? Yes, it is worth a viewing or two, so check it out!

4 out of 5 stars

The Terminal

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

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks) arrives at JFK International Airport, but finds that his passport is suddenly not valid, so he is not allowed to enter the United States. While he was en route to the U.S., a revolution was started in his home nation of Krakozhia. Due to the civil war, the United States no longer recognizes Krakozhia as a sovereign nation and denies Viktor’s entrance to the U.S. territory. He is unable to leave the airport, but he is also unable to return to Krakozhia, Viktor instead lives in the terminal, carrying his luggage and a mysterious Planters peanut can.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Head Frank Dixon (Stanley Tucci) wants Navorski removed from the airport. Navorski collects money for food by retrieving vacant baggage trolleys for the 25-cent reward from the machine, until Dixon prevents this. He then befriends a catering car driver named Enrique Cruz (Diego Luna) who gives him food in exchange for information about Customs and Border Protection officer Dolores Torres (Zoë Saldana), with whom Enrique is infatuated. With Viktor’s help, Enrique and Dolores eventually marry each other. He meets flight attendant Amelia Warren (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who asks him out to dinner, but he tries to earn money in order to ask Amelia out instead. He finally gets an off-the-books job as a construction worker at the airport earning $19 an hour (more money than Dixon makes), and he also learns to speak fluent English.

Viktor is asked to interpret for a desperate Russian man with undocumented drugs for his sick father. Viktor claims it is “medicine for goat,” barring the drug from confiscation and resolving the crisis. Under pressure and the watchful eye of the Airport Ratings committee, who is evaluating Dixon for an upcoming promotion, Dixon chastises Viktor. Though Dixon is advised that sometimes rules must be ignored, he becomes obsessed with getting Viktor ejected from the airport. An airport janitor, Rajan Gupta (Kumar Pallana), relates the “goat” incident with embellishment to his fellow co-workers and as a result, Viktor earns the respect and admiration of all of the airport staff.

One day, Viktor explains to Amelia that the purpose of his visit to New York is to collect an autograph from the tenor saxophonist Benny Golson. It is revealed that the peanut can Viktor carries with him contains an autographed copy of the “Great Day in Harlem” photograph. His late father was a jazz enthusiast who had discovered the famous portrait in a Hungarian newspaper in 1958, and vowed to get an autograph of all the 57 jazz musicians featured on the photograph. He succeeded in obtaining 56, but he died before he could finish his collection, so Viktor traveled to New York to obtain the autograph, so he can finish his collection.

After 9 months of living on the JFK terminal, he is awakened by Enrique and the other friends, who inform him that the war in Krakozhia is now ended, but Dixon will still not allow Viktor to enter the United States. Amelia reveals that she had asked her ‘friend’ — actually a married government official with whom she had been having an affair — to assist Viktor in obtaining permission to travel within the U.S., but Viktor is disappointed to learn she has renewed her relationship with the man during this process.

To make matters worse, Dixon needs to sign the form granting Viktor the right to remain in the United States, but refuses. He instead blackmails Viktor into returning to Krakozhia, or he will have Mulroy fired for having evening poker games with friends and bringing alcohol and marijuana into the airport, have Enrique fired for allowing Viktor into the restricted food preparation area and deport Gupta back to his native India, where he is wanted for assaulting a corrupt police officer back in 1979. Upon hearing this, Gupta runs in front of Viktor’s plane and asks Viktor to go anyway. The plane is delayed, giving Viktor enough time to go into the city and obtain the autograph. With the blessing of the entire airport staff, Viktor leaves the airport after receiving a uniform coat from a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Assistant Port Director and hails a taxi.

Dixon, watching Viktor leave the airport, decides not to pursue him. As Viktor prepares to take the taxi to a Ramada Inn where Benny Golson is performing, he observes Amelia exiting from a cab, where she gives him a wistful smile, telling him to go. He has a short conversation with the cab driver, telling him how to avoid traffic on the way to the hotel and that he is from Krakozhia. The driver tells Viktor that he is from Albania and arrived earlier that week. At the hotel, Benny Golson is doing a sound check and asks Viktor to wait while he finishes his rehearsal. Viktor listens to him play and collects the autograph, finally completing the collection. Afterwards, Viktor leaves and hails a taxi, telling the driver, “I am going home.” The taxi drives off and the credits roll.

REVIEW:

Post 9/11, it seems as if anything anyone does is scrutinized. Throw in the fact that you’re from a country known for wars, and you’re almost certain to be profiled. To make matters even worse, imagine if your country no longer becomes a country while you’re in the air! These are just a few of the problems Tom Hanks has to face in The Terminal.

What is this about?

After a coup d’etat explodes in his homeland, Viktor Navorski is stranded at Kennedy Airport, where he’s holding a passport that nobody recognizes. While quarantined in the transit lounge, Viktor simply goes on living. The problem is that the powers that be don’t seem to want him there. What will be Viktor’s ultimate fate?

What did I like?

Canned jazz. Viktor’s sole purpose for coming to America is explained late in the film, but it has to do with a promise, a picture, and Planter’s peanut can. I love how they were able to give a quick cameo to one of the last living greats of the time when jazz ruled, Benny Golson, as well as namedrop a few other legends such as Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Rollins, etc. As a huge jazz fan, this was the highlight.

Go about your business. Viktor, who is stuck in limbo until the mess with his country is straightened out, makes the best out of a terrible situation. I can imagine someone like myself doing the same thing, just staying calm and make do with what is around, while other would totally freak out and almost cause an international incident.

Simple. This is a fairly simple plot. Everything about it can easily be understood and there are no brain teasers or whatnot. I can actually see this happening, if it hadn’t already. Think back to when the Soviet Union collapsed or when the Berlin Wall came down. Can’t you just see citizens from those lands being stuck here or somewhere else until things were resolved amongst their countries? I doubt that it was for this length of time, but you get the idea.

What didn’t I like?

Security. I don’t fly, so I cannot speak from personal experience, but I have heard the horror stories about the insane  security at airports. The fact that this guy was stuck just because his country had some issues just goes to show how much we profile everyone from other countries. Viktor was not a terrorist by any stretch of the imagination, but because they saw him carrying around his peanut can, they thought it was some plot. Can’t you just see security at some airport today nearly killing a guy for the same kind of thing?

Hookup. While Viktor is busy trying to get out of the airport, some random guy comes up to him and offers him food in exchange for information on a girl he is in love with. An honest request, however, the way Viktor goes about it almost seemed like he was the one trying to get the hookup. At least that’s how I saw it. Viktor does get a girl of his own; a real upgrade from Officer Torres, if you ask me. So, it all works out.

Always one. Viktor is such a likable guy, I find it hard to believe that anyone would wish him harm, but there were two people. One, is the janitor, who seemed to think he was a spy. Not really sure why, especially since he him himself was an international criminal of some sorts. The other was the head of Customs and Border Protection. I guess his reason for wanting him out is similar to the way many of s would want to oust a houseguest who overstayed their welcome. After all, this guy has been there 9 months! That said, to make it to where he can barely survive was a bit much.

The Terminal was a surprisingly entertaining film. The mixture of drama and comedy, as well the totally absurd premise that can be related to today makes for a compelling watch. I highly recommend this film, just not before you have to fly.

4 out of 5 stars