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

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

Surrogates

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

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In the future, widespread use of remotely-controlled androids called “surrogates” allow everyone to live in idealized forms from the safety of their homes. A surrogate’s operator is protected from harm and feels no pain when their surrogate is damaged. FBI agent Tom Greer (Bruce Willis) has a strained relationship with his wife Maggie (Rosamund Pike), due to their son’s death several years before. He never sees her outside of her surrogate and she criticizes his desire to interact via their real bodies.

Greer and his partner, Agent Jennifer Peters (Radha Mitchell), investigate the death of two people who were killed when their surrogates were destroyed at a club. Jarid Canter (Shane Dzicek), son of Dr. Lionel Canter (James Cromwell), the inventor of surrogates, is one of the victims. Greer and Peters determine that a human named Miles Strickland (Jack Noseworthy) used a new type of weapon to overload the surrogates’ systems and kill their operators. After locating Strickland, Greer attempts to bring him into custody. Strickland uses the weapon and injures Greer during the chase; Greer inadvertently crash-lands into an anti-surrogate zone known as the Dread Reservation (one of many throughout the United States). A mob of humans eventually destroy Greer’s surrogate, forcing him to interact in the world without one. The Dread leader known as The Prophet (Ving Rhames) kills Strickland and confiscates the weapon.

Agent Greer learns that the same company manufacturing the surrogates originally produced the weapon under a government contract. It was designed to load a virus that overloads the surrogate’s systems, thus disabling it. Unexpectedly, the weapon also disabled the fail-safe protocols protecting surrogate operators. After the first test, the project was scrapped and all but one prototype were destroyed.

Agent Peters is murdered and an unknown party hijacks her surrogate. Greer is informed that Andrew Stone (Boris Kodjoe), his FBI superior, supplied the weapon to Strickland and ordered Dr. Canter’s assassination for his criticism of surrogate use. Jarid, using one of his father’ many surrogates, was killed instead. The Prophet orders the weapon be delivered to Peters. During a military raid on the reservation, the Prophet is shot, revealing his identity as a surrogate, with none other than Dr. Canter himself as the operator.

Greer heads to Dr. Canter’s home and discovers that he has been controlling not only the Prophet but Peters as well. Using Agent Peters’ surrogate in FBI Headquarters, Dr. Canter uses the weapon to kill Stone and proceeds to upload the virus to all surrogates, which will destroy the surrogates and kill their operators. Believing his plan to be unstoppable, Canter disconnects from Peters’s surrogate and swallows a cyanide pill. Agent Greer takes control of the surrogate and with the assistance of the network’s system administrator Bobby Saunders (Devin Ratray), insulates the virus so the operators will survive. Agent Greer must choose to either destroy all surrogates or cancel the virus upload. Greer ultimately decides to let the virus permanently shut down surrogates worldwide. People emerge from their homes without their surrogates, confused and afraid.

Greer returns home and shares an emotional embrace with Maggie in her real form. The film ends with an aerial view of the collapsed surrogates along with overlapping news reports of the downed surrogates all over the world and how people are now “on their own” again.

REVIEW:

Ever come across a trailer that makes you want to go out and find a film right there and then? Surrogates was not one of those flicks for me, but it did pique my interest. Of course, other people in this house felt the need to see it ASAP.

What is this about?

Based on Robert Venditti’s graphic novel of the same name, director Jonathan Mostow’s sci-fi thriller is set in a futuristic world in which humans hibernate at home while living their lives vicariously through robot surrogates. When a series of mysterious surrogate murders occurs, FBI agent Greer (Bruce Willis) ventures out into the world for the first time in years to investigate.

What did I like?

Plot. I’m one of those people who is not really a fan of technology (said while typing on a laptop, watching a flat screen, and checking my cellphone). However, every now and then, a story about technological problems comes along and strikes a chord with me. This time around, it is about surrogate humans that, while not a problem, are not real. I compare this to how we never really talk to anyone anymore. Think about it…when was the last time you had a real phone conversation with someone or wrote a letter? Chances are that you texted or use text-speak instead, and it was some sort of extremely short message, too.

Aging. Everyone in this film is a different age, but their surrogates are all the ideal age, size, etc. We know Willis is getting on up there, but hotties like Radha Mitchell and Rosamund Pike are young, yet when we see them in their real forms, they’re a bit aged. The make up and special effects used to make the different ages was brilliant.

Twist. The twist at film’s end where we fins out who ultimately is behind everything came out of nowhere. I would have never guessed it, but at the same time I think I had a feeling something like that was going to happen.

What didn’t I like?

Carbon copy.  I mentioned earlier how all of these surrogates are supposedly the ideal specimens. However, you can’t tell me that everyone wants to look exactly the same. I’m sure there are guys who would rather be more muscular than the next guy, or girls that would prefer to be curvier. They didn’t really show all of the surrogates, but the ones they did show were all about the same size and build. I find it hard to believe that this company can’t have some variation in their models.

Prophet. This guy is some kind of leader of a human revolution, yet he isn’t used near as much as he should have been. Maybe it is just me, but I seem to think that one you major antagonists should get lots of screentime, not just pockets here and there.

Kids. AS the film is coming to the last act, they show and ad for surrogates for kids. There is just so much wrong with that. Obviously, these things are meant to hide the imperfections of the actual humans, so it would appear to be the same way with the kids. The world these people live in could very well be worse than the one we live in, but at least they don’t have reality TV, so they’re better off no matter what!

Surrogates isn’t the best robot film I’ve seen, but it isn’t a stinker. I would watch this again if suggested or if I came across it on television. With that in mind, though, I don’t believe that I would rush out and buy it. There just isn’t enough of a wow factor here for me. Do I recommend it, ultimately? Yes, this is a film that you won’t be sorry for watching. Check it out sometime!

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

 

Man on a Ledge

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , on September 19, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In New York City, Nick Cassidy (Sam Worthington) checks in to the Roosevelt Hotel under the false name of Walker, goes to his hotel room on the 21st floor, and climbs on the ledge, apparently ready to commit suicide. The crowd below sees him and calls the police. They isolate the area, with Dante Marcus (Titus Welliver) controlling the crowd, while Jack Dougherty (Edward Burns) tries to talk with Nick. However, Nick says he will only speak to negotiator Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks), who is on a leave of absence after failing to convince a depressed policeman not to jump from the Brooklyn Bridge a month earlier.

Lydia arrives at the hotel room and manages to acquire Nick’s fingerprints from a cigarette they share. Dougherty has them analyzed and discovers that Nick is an ex-policeman who was arrested for stealing a $40 million diamond from businessman David Englander (Ed Harris). Nick was given a 25-year sentence, but after being allowed to attend his father’s funeral a month earlier, escaped from his guards. Nick, however, maintains that he is innocent and reveals that Englander used to employ cops to protect his multi-floor jewelry business. One day, while Nick was escorting Englander and the diamond, he was knocked unconscious by two men in ski masks. He awakened to find that Englander had framed him for stealing the diamond in order to get the insurance money, as he lost $30 million with Lehman Brothers and more money when the real estate market crashed.

Unbeknownst to the police, Nick is merely distracting them while his brother Joey (Jamie Bell) and Joey’s girlfriend Angie (Génesis Rodríguez) break into Englander’s upper floor jewelry vault in the building across the street to steal the diamond and prove Nick’s innocence. Meanwhile, Dougherty informs Marcus of Nick’s identity, and Marcus orders the security of the jewelry store to check the vault. Although Joey and Angie are able to evade them, they don’t find the diamond. They set off the alarms, tricking Englander into retrieving the diamond from another safe that they did not know about, and return to his office, where they ambush him and steal the diamond at gunpoint.

Meanwhile, Nick’s ex-partner, Mike Ackerman (Anthony Mackie), arrives at the hotel with evidence that Nick is planning something and demands to be allowed into the hotel room. Lydia does not trust him, and Dougherty backs her up. Ackerman claims he has found bomb schematics in Nick’s hideout and is convinced that he will detonate an explosive somewhere. While the crowd is evacuated by the anti-bomb squad, Lydia, believing in Nick’s innocence, calls Internal Affairs and discovers that three of the cops employed by Englander were suspected of being corrupt; a deceased officer called Walker, Ackerman, and Marcus.

Englander calls Marcus, one of the men who helped him frame Nick, and has him capture Joey and Angie, but they have already given the diamond to a hotel concierge who passes it to Nick as he is being chased by the tactical team throughout the hotel. Marcus chases Nick to the roof where he orders Lydia to be arrested for obstruction. Englander brings Joey and Angie, and threatens to throw Joey off the roof if Nick does not give him the diamond. Nick does, and Englander leaves. Meanwhile, Lydia escapes custody and rushes back to the roof.

There, Marcus holds Joey at gunpoint in order to force Nick to jump off the roof, silencing him, when Ackerman arrives and shoots Marcus who in turn shoots back at Ackerman, wounding him. Nick rushes to Ackerman’s side, and Ackerman apologizes, claiming that although he helped Englander to fake the diamond’s theft, he never knew Nick would be framed. Marcus survives as he is wearing a bulletproof vest and is preparing to kill Nick when Lydia arrives and shoots him.

Nick jumps from the roof onto an air mattress set up earlier by the police, catches up to Englander before he enters in his limo, beats him, and pulls the missing diamond from his pocket, revealing the truth. Englander is arrested, while Nick is proved innocent and released after intervention by the governor. He meets Joey, Angie, and Lydia at a bar, where he introduces Lydia to the hotel concierge, who is Nick’s father—having faked his death in order to help his son. Joey proposes to Angie with a diamond ring stolen from Englander’s vault, and they all celebrate together.

REVIEW:

Two interesting tidbits about this Man on a Ledge. It has been in my Netflix queue for some time, but I kept pushing it down, for some reason and I decided to go ahead and give it a shot after seeing an ad for the DVD while watching an episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air where Will and Carlton are out on a ledge.

What is this about?

When fugitive ex-cop Nick Cassidy steps onto a window ledge high above a busy Manhattan street, police psychologist Lydia Anderson tries to talk him down. Soon Anderson suspects that there’s more to Cassidy’s stunt than meets the eye. Will the truth be uncovered?

What did I like?

Don’t blink. Like most films of this nature, I expected there to be lots of action, which there was. However, I didn’t expect it to be almost Statham-esque in its delivery. Truthfully, I was looking for lots of exposition downtime, and never really got that, which is a huge selling point for me!

Random hot chick. I think we need to keep an eye on Genesis Rodriguez. The girl is seriously hot and apparently used Will Ferrel’s Casa de mi Padre as a stepping stone to launch her career here in the US (although this was her official debut). That being said, I can’t really she was needed for any other purpose than to be the random hot chick, which works for me, but some people may not feel the same way.

Suspense. I truly have to admire the way this film is crafted. We, as the audience, really feel the suspense of this guy hanging out there on the ledge, not knowing if he’s going to fall off, jump, or what.

What didn’t I like?

Closer. Kyra Sedgewick every know and then shows up as a reporter and I have to ask why. Not because of her acting, but why she was cast in such a trivial role. Does she owe the director a favor? Has she had dreams of being a reporter in the past? What’s the deal? Why was she so wasted when she could have been so much more?

Diamond. Unless I happened to look away when they were showing it, I don’t recall actually seeing the diamond. It isn’t a requirement to see the thing, but it just seems as if that is something that should have done.

So hard to get good help. When we first meet Joey and Angie, they come off as a couple of bungling crooks who are sure to do more harm than good in this caper, but they quickly turn it around. The problem I have with them is the dynamic shift. I was enjoying the comedic dynamic they initially had and don’t understand why they felt the need to lose that. Comic relief is always a plus!

Man on a Ledge goes down as one of the surprise hits of the year for me. While I’m not going to rush out and buy this like I will The Avengers when it comes out next week, I did fully enjoy it from beginning to end. I say this is one that you should not miss, even if you think the title is a bit too simple. Trust me, you can’t judge a film by its title…sometimes. Give this one a shot!

4 out of 5 stars

The Lorax

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 19, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Theodore “Ted” Wiggins, an idealistic 12-year-old boy, lives in “Thneedville”, a walled city that, aside from the citizens, is completely artificial: everything is made of plastic, metal, or synthetics. Ted sets out to find a real tree for his friend Audrey. His energetic grandmother suggests he speak with the Once-ler about this, and he discovers that their city has been closed off from the outside world, which is a contaminated and empty wasteland. The Once-ler agrees to tell Ted about the trees if he listens to his story over multiple visits. Ted agrees, even after the mayor of Thneedville, Aloysius O’Hare, who is also the greedy proprietor of a bottled oxygen company, confronts the boy and pressures him to stay in town. Over the course of the film, Ted, with the encouragement of his grandmother, continues to sneak out of O’Hare’s sight and learns more of the history of the trees.

Over the visits, the Once-ler recounts the story of how he departed his family to make his fortune. In a lush Truffula Tree forest, he met the Lorax. He is a grumpy yet charming orange creature who served as guardian of the land. At first, the Once-ler had a plan to chop down the trees. Eventually, he promised not to chop another tree down. The young businessman’s Thneed invention soon became a major success and the Once-ler’s family arrived to participate in the business. Keeping his promise at first, the Once-ler continued Thneed production by harvesting the tufts themselves in a sustainable manner. Unfortunately, his greedy and lazy relatives convinced him to resume logging as a more efficient gathering method. Breaking his promise, the Once-ler’s deforestation spiraled into a mass overproduction. Flush with wealth, the Once-ler rationalised his short sighted needs into arrogant self-righteousness and the helpless protests of the Lorax could not stop him. The Once-ler polluted the sky, river and landscape, until finally the last Truffula Tree fell outside, and the Once-ler realised what he had done while making the region uninhabitable with his business’s pollution. With that, the Once-ler was left ruined and abandoned by his own family and became a recluse with the creation and isolation of Ted’s town that came under young Mr. O’Hare’s control, giving him the plan to sell fresh air with the absence of trees. Eventually, the Lorax sends the animals away before departing himself into the sky, leaving a stonecut word: “Unless”.

At the end of the story, the Once-ler understands the meaning behind the Lorax’s last message, and gives Ted a gift of the last Truffula seed in hopes of planting it to regrow the forest. Ted’s desire to impress Audrey is now a personal mission to remind his town of the importance of nature. O’Hare, determined not to have trees undercut his business, takes heavy-handed steps such as covering Audrey’s nature paintings, closing off the door that Ted uses to see the Once-ler and forcibly searching Ted’s room for the seed. Ted enlists his family and Audrey to help plant the seed, which has begun to germinate after coming into contact with water. O’Hare and his employees pursue the dissidents until they manage to elude him and reach the town center. Unfortunately, their attempt to plant the seed is interrupted by O’Hare who rallies the population to stop them. To convince them otherwise, Ted takes an earthmover and rams down a section of the city wall to reveal the environmental destruction outside. Horrified at the sight and inspired by Ted’s conviction, the crowd defies O’Hare with his own henchmen expelling him from the town. The seed is planted, and Audrey kisses Ted on the cheek. Time passes and the land is starting to recover; the trees are regrowing, the animals are returning, and the redeemed Once-ler is happily reunited with the Lorax.

REVIEW:

The Lorax is best known as a character from the animated short which usually followed How the Grinch Stole Christmas. That is, it was before they stopped airing them together to “save airtime for revenue generating programming” (don’t get me started on a rant about that). Dr. Seuss’ beloved environmental champion is finally getting the spotlight in this animated film.

What is this about?

A 12-year-old boy searches for the one thing that will enable him to win the affection of the girl of his dreams. To find it he must discover the story of the Lorax, the grumpy yet charming creature who fights to protect his world. Can he do it? Will he get the girl?

What did I like?

Hunk o’ cheese. I think that it is safe to say these songs are not going to be winning any Grammy or Oscar nominations for best song. While they are cheesy and horrible, they are the kind of thing you just can’t turn away from. I dare you to watch and listen and not at least be intrigued.

About time. Look, you can say how this is some kind of environmental propaganda film all you want, but there is some truth to it. As I say in many of my western or medieval film reviews, the gorgeous countryside that was once nothing but trees is now nothing but buildings, smoke, smog, and grumpy people. If we keep headed that way, pretty soon we’ll choke ourselves to death. That is unless someone can find a way to charge for air. As greedy as people are in this day and age, I’m surprised they haven’t tried already!

Animation. Pixar threw down the gauntlet by showing that even fur can be animated in films like Monsters, Inc. and most recently, Brave. It is about time other studios started catching up. The forest animals and the Lorax are beautifully animated, right down to each and every last inch of fur. The trees, when we see them, are just like those troll dolls and fuzzy pen/pencil tops that were popular not so long ago. On the flipside, the humans seem as plastic as the town they live in.

What didn’t I like?

Once-ler. The book is very short and the animated special is about 15 minutes, I believe, possibly 30…been awhile since I’ve watched it. Obviously, in order to make a 90 minute film, they needed to flesh some things out. I would imagine this would allow us to get to know the Lorax a little better, seeing as how this is his film. However, they decided to give us this whole backstory on the Once-ler, including taking away the mysterious form he has and making him human, as well as foisting the Ted stuff on us.  I just can’t fathom why they decided to give the Once-ler the once over. It was like in Inspector Gadget when we see Dr. Klaw. These characters are mysterious and in shadow for a reason. Leave them be and don’t try to make them human!

Entrance. The Lorax makes a grand entrance, complete with thunder, lightning, the whole nine yards, and then…a whole lot of nothing. That isn’t his fault, but rather the writers. If you’re going to give him this big intro like that, then give him something to do, such as magical powers or something. Otherwise, just have him randomly appear and start bitching about how the trees have been cut down!

Controversy. As I mentioned earlier, there has been some controversy surrounding this film and its “environmental propaganda”. As an adult, I see it, but do you honestly think a 5 yr old kid is going to care about that? Truth be told, this is no worse that getting beat over the head with the environmental stick every week by Captain Planet in the late 80s and early 90s. As a matter of fact, that was worse. There is no reason to turn a harmless film into a political issue, but of course, some conservative nutjob had to do just that. They did the same thing with The Dark Knight, saying Batman was like President Bush going into Iraq. Ugh…why can’t we just watch films and not try to analyze (and ruin) everything!

Swift and unfaithful. Let me just get this out there. I do not care for Taylor Swift. She needs to be worshipping the ground that Kanye West walks on for her career, because if not for that little scene at the awards show a few years back, she would be just another country singer. I also do not care for the way this film treats the actual lines from the book. They do it with such a condescending tone, it is almost as if they want to disavow any knowledge of it, which is an insult to the great words spun from the creative mind of the late, great Dr. Seuss!

The Lorax is actually one of the better animated films I’ve seen this year. It does everything it sets out to do and even accomplishes a few other things along the way. Kids and adults will enjoy this light-hearted film and I highly recommend it!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Cat Ballou

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

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Catherine Ballou, an aspiring schoolteacher, is traveling by train to Wolf City, Wyoming, to visit her rancher father, Frankie Ballou. En route she unwittingly helps accused cattle rustler Clay Boone elude his captor, the sheriff, when Boone’s Uncle Jed, a drunkard disguised as a preacher, distracts the lawman. She reaches the ranch to find that the Wolf City Development Corporation is trying to take the ranch away from her father, whose only defender is an educated Indian, Jackson Two-Bears. Clay and Jed appear and reluctantly offer to help Catherine. She also hires legendary gunfighter Kid Shelleen to come and help protect her father from fast-drawing Tim Strawn, alias Silvernose, the hired killer who is threatening Frankie.

Shelleen arrives, a drunken stumblebum who is literally unable to hit the broad side of a barn when he shoots and whose pants fall down when he draws his gun. Strawn kills Frankie, and when the townspeople refuse to bring him to justice, Catherine becomes a revenge-seeking outlaw known as Cat Ballou. She and her four gang members rob a train carrying the Wolf City payroll, and Shelleen, inspired by his love for Cat (unrequited because she loves Clay), shapes up and kills Strawn. Later he casually reveals that Strawn was his brother.

Cat poses as a lady of loose morals and confronts town boss Sir Harry Percival (Reginald Denny), owner of the Wolf City Development Corporation. A struggle ensues, Sir Harry is killed, and Cat is sentenced to be hanged on the gallows. Just after the noose is placed around her neck, Uncle Jed (again as a fake preacher) cuts the rope as she falls through the trapdoor. Her gang then spirits her away in a daring rescue.

REVIEW:

In my quest to watch more westerns, I found myself in the mood for a comedy. More than a few friends and websites recommended Cat Ballou, so I decided to give it a shot. Western comedy worked when I watched Blazing Saddles, so maybe lightening will strike twice.

What is this about?

Nat “King” Cole and Stubby Kaye provide a Greek chorus-style narrative in this tongue-in-cheek Western parody. Cat’s (Jane Fonda) father has been murdered by a gunslinger (Lee Marvin), and now, the schoolmarm-cum-outlaw must team with boozehound Kid Shelleen (also played by Marvin) to prevent her father’s ranch from falling into the wrong hands. Will she succeed or suffer the same fate as her father?

What did I like?

Comedy. I really like how this film handles the comedy. It doesn’t go overboard with slapstick, nor does it forget that it is a comedy and take itself so seriously. I am a fan of films that do comedy right, and this is one of those pictures.

Minstrels. Nat “King” Cole singing…how can you go wrong? Couple him with Stubby Kaye and make them the proverbial Greek chorus and you have a winning formula. The insight they provide us is great and they have that duo magic one would never expect from such an odd pairing.

Young Jane. Looking at her now, you would never guess she was a vision of beauty. This has to be the prettiest I’ve seen Miss Fonda. Sure, she was hot in Barbarella, but this film doesn’t have her running/floating around space in next to nothing, but instead allows the audience to focuses on her natural beauty.

What didn’t I like?

Native American treatment. I know that in this period of time, it was a miracle for a Native American to have a job such as this and still be alive. I accept that, but what I don’t get is how they make a big deal of his heritage at the dance early on in the picture, but for the rest of the film, it is glossed over or ignored. Seems as if that would be someone who would be targeting him before any of the others in the gang.

Split personality. Seeing your father gunned down in front of you is likely to change something inside of you, just look at Batman/Bruce Wayne. However, I don’t think it would suddenly change a meek school teacher into a gunslinger. No sir, I just don’t see it happening.

Brothers. Usually, when major characters are on opposite sides, there is a big deal made of them being related, but this film mentions it, gets a reaction, and then moves on from the fact that Silvernose and Kid Sheleen are brothers. I felt like they should have spent at least a little more time on that.

Cat Ballou is the kind of film for those that want to watch a western without actually watching a western. It has comedy, action, suspense, romance…a little something for everyone. I highly recommend this to just about everyone. It is not a film to be ignored!

4 out of 5 stars

#1 Cheerleader Camp

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on September 19, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Two horny college guys get summer jobs at a cheerleader camp for the summer. Friendly and naive Michael is mistaken as a homosexual even though he isn’t. World class jerk Andy has an addiction to masturbation and also tries to hook up with a different girl every night. Michael and Andy help out head cheerleader Sophie form her own cheerleading team. A group of strippers end up becoming cheerleaders after Michael and Andy have a run-in with them at a local gentlemen’s club. A college scholarship is offered to the group of cheerleaders that wins the climatic team competition.

REVIEW:

What do we have here? A direct-to-DVD sex comedy that is all about horny guys thinking of getting laid while the girls are focused on the big prize. Seems like this a formula we’ve seen/heard before, perhaps in something like American Pie Presents: Band Camp. I don’t think #1 Cheerleader Camp should be mentioned in the same breath, though.

What is this about?

When they’re hired to work at a cheerleading camp for the summer, two lusty college friends prepare for the most spirited three months of their lives. But the squad won’t be ready for serious competition without some remedial training in sex appeal. Will they be able to pull it together in time for the competition? Will the guys get overcome their shortcomings?

What did I like?

Aged like a fine wine. Charlene Tilton plays herself and may very well be the best acting job in this entire film. She makes fun of herself and plays a bit of a caricature version of who she is.

Recruitment. I have to say that I have never thought of using strippers as cheerleaders, then again, they did use them in The Replacements. Also, if you look at some of the movies cheerleaders do nowadays, you’d think they were strippers!

What didn’t I like?

Mistress. The head counselor is a very attractive woman. Something that I’ve noticed in films like this is that characters like her appear in a couple of scenes and then disappear. This is no exception, except she has one scene where she strips down to this mistress outfit and shows off this incredible body, by the way, which makes you wonder why they didn’t use her more. Also, there is this hinted at tension between she and Charlene Tilton, but we never get anything more than Tilton’s side of the story.

Too easy. The mean girl angle that was being used by the rival squad has been played out. On top of that, there is the whole thing where it seems as if everything that Britt wanted to happen in order to stick it to the other team seemed to happen. How in the bloody hell does that occur?!?

Bet. Is it me, or do all sex comedies nowadays have to incorporate some kind of bet. This is no exception, as they make a bet about who will have a 3-way first. Now, I won’t even mention the insane odds against that actually happening, but come on writers!!! You guys could have come up with something more original, right?

Spank. It seems like everytime they show this token schlub, he’s masturbating. WTF?!? Do we really need to see this guy beating his meat every other scene?!?

#1 Cheerleader Camp isn’t totally horrible, but it is bad, even by direct-to-DVD sex comedy standards. If you want to see a good cheerleader flick, then check out the first Bring It On (the only one of those films worth watching). I give this film props for trying to be a good, raunchy sex comedy, but it just doesn’t find the right mix of raunch, story, and heart. For that reason, it falls flat. I’m sure there is an audience for this, at times I am included in that group, but today just isn’t that day. I cannot in good faith recommend this.

1 3/4 out of 5 stars

Safe

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

PLOT:

A former cage fighter comes to the aid of a 12-year-old girl kidnapped by ruthless Triad gangsters. Before the rescue is over, the pair will go up against not only her abductors, but also the Russian Mafia and a bunch of corrupt New York cops.

REVIEW:

Say what you will about Jason Statham, I happen to believe he is the current go to guy for action films. I challenge you to name someone else who is as bankable without being a superhero (although Statham has stated he wants to e Daredevil). Safe is another entry into Staham’s action repertoire, but a bit of a departure from his usual formulaic films.

What is this about?

Mei, a young girl whose memory holds a priceless numerical code, finds herself pursued by the Triads, the Russian mob, and corrupt NYC cops. Coming to her aid is an ex-cage fighter whose life was destroyed by the gangsters on Mei’s trail. Will he be able to keep her safe and return to his normal life?

What did I like?

Mob wars. Russian and Chinese mafias going at each other throats and trying to get this little girl and kill Statham. What more can one ask for? Seems like he’s always stuck between two mobs (one of which is always Chinese) in his films, but that doesn’t make it any less appealing to me.

Hong. The other day, I saw this guy as a villain in an episode of The A-Team and now here he is again as a villainous mob boss. The special thing about that, though, is that most of his roles lately have been more of a good guy, typical mentor kind of guy. The last thing that I remember him in was the Kung Fu Panda films, and he’s Po’s dad, which makes him as good of a guy as you can get.

Mei. The little girl is hopefully on her way to a huge career. She shows some signs of true acting talent, not to mention being able to hang with Statham in the action realm, something that isn’t very easy to do.

What didn’t I like?

Lack of clarity. Throughout the whole film, I couldn’t help but find myself wondering what was really going on. It is never really a clear picture what the motives for everything are, why this little girl manages to bring Statham’s character back to “life”, etc.

Not a comedy. Some jokes were cracked here and there, but this isn’t anywhere near being a comedy, contrary to what people seem to believe. I give the film all the props in the world for inserting some jokes here and there, though.

Corrupt cops. There really isn’t anything special about the corrupt cops and city officials. In the same way that I hate how films use the military anytime something “different” appears on Earth, I’m just not a fan of these corrupt cop capers. I’ve just seen enough of these type of things.

Safe is a safe bet for those that are into these kind of action flicks. Staham is a bankable action star and earns his money in this one. Once this film gets going, hang on because you’re in for a fun ride. I don’t highly recommend this, but it is worth watching, so check it out!

3 out of 5 stars