Archive for October, 2012

A Thousand Words

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , on October 31, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Jack McCall (Eddie Murphy) is a literary agent who uses his ‘gift of gab’ to get various book deals, and he isn’t afraid to stretch the truth to get them. While he is trying to get a book deal from a New Age self-help guru named Dr. Sinja (Cliff Curtis), the guru sees through his deceit and agrees to the deal, only to later deliver a five-page book. That night, a Bodhi tree magically appears in his backyard, with a thousand leaves. Dr. Sinja goes to Jack’s house and they both discover that for every word that Jack says, a leaf will fall off of the tree. When the tree runs out of leaves, the tree will die, along with Jack. In time, he finds that even written words count towards his limit; plus anything that happens to the tree will also affect Jack. When Jack tries to cut it down with an axe, an axe wound appears on him. When squirrels climb the tree, it tickles him. When a gardener tries to poison it with DDT, Jack gets high on the fumes.

With Jack forced to pick and choose his words, communicating with others becomes difficult and full of misunderstandings. These misunderstandings cost him two book deals, his job, and his wife Caroline (Kerry Washington). She walks out on him when she thinks his sudden silence is due to him not loving her anymore. When he tries to explain the tree to her, she doesn’t believe him. Only Jack’s assistant Aaron (Clark Duke) realizes he is telling the truth, and goes to Jack’s house to keep track of how many leaves remain.

With his life falling apart and the tree running out of leaves, Jack confronts Dr. Sinja and asks how to end the curse. The guru tells him to make peace in all of his relationships. With just one branch of leaves left, Jack tries to reconcile with Caroline, but she remains hesitant. He visits his mother (Ruby Dee), who lives in an assisted-living center and has dementia. She tells Jack, who she thinks is Jack’s late father Raymond, that she wishes Jack would stop being angry at his father for walking out on them when he was a kid. Jack, realizing that this is the relationship that needs the most mending, goes to visit his father’s grave. Jack expends the last three leaves of the tree with the words, “I forgive you”. With no leaves remaining, Jack suffers a heart attack and appears to have died. Jack’s cellphone rings, and it is Aaron. Jack, who is still alive, answers his phone. Aaron tells him that the tree’s leaves have magically reappeared and Jack can now talk freely again.

Jack and Caroline get back together, with Jack buying the family-friendly house Caroline asked for earlier, and the tree is in their front yard. He doesn’t get his job back (Aaron was promoted to Jack’s old position), but he writes a book about his experience, called A Thousand Words, and gets Aaron to make the deal (unfortunately for Aaron, his promotion caused him to be like Jack was, thus he gets his own smaller office tree.)

REVIEW:

I am a man of few words, so having to without communicating 1,000 words isn’t that big of a deal for me. Then again, I would have to stop writing e-mails, comments, and blogs, so that might be a bit of an issue. A Thousand Words gives us something that a few people have long wanted, a silent Eddie Murphy, but was that a mistake?

What is this about?

When he learns that his karma will permit him to speak just a thousand more words before he dies, fast-talking agent Jack must make every syllable count to make peace with his wife and his celebrity author client. But can he truly change his ways?

What did I like?

Success. Not since Boomerang can I remember seeing Eddie Murphy so in control, both in terms of his character and the film itself. Many people have been saying Murphy needs to get back to things that worked for him in the past. Perhaps this is a start. At least I hope so.

Sidekick. Clark Duke, in my opinion, is the next Jonah Hill. You can debate who is the bigger douche between the two, though. Here he is Murphy’s assistant and gets all the crap jobs that come with being an assistant, short of getting his coffee and wiping his ass after he takes a dump. He does all this without raising a fuss and, if one reads anything into the ending, it pays off.

Ruby. The great Ruby Dee plays Murphy’s mother who is in an assisted living home and suffering from dementia. While she may be a bit out there, she is still a sweet old lady and the love she shows for her son could not be any greater.

What didn’t I like?

Why? When Murphy goes to see the guru he comes across this tree and accidentally sticks himself with it. I suppose that is the reason it all of a sudden sprung up in his backyard and why he couldn’t say more than 1000 words (that number is never explicitly said). I don’t recall it being said why the tree has cursed him. As a matter of fact, they seemed just as lost as the audience was. If that’s not a bad sign, then I don’t know what is!

Voice and time. I read a review about this that questioned why you would take away Eddie Murphy’s voice. Truth be told, that is a valid question. Murphy isn’t necessarily known for physical comedy like say, Jim Carrey. Taking away his greatest asset was a big mistake. If that wasn’t bad enough, how about the fact that this was held in limbo for 4 years. The fact that they held it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It worked for The Cabin in the Woods, but this one should have either went direct-to-DVD, been released right away, or not been released at all.

Family drama. Films like this tend to have some kind of family drama. I’ve come to expect that, but they spread it on so thick that it changes the tone of the film. I lay that blame squarely on the beautiful shoulders of Kerry Washington. I hate to say this, but she drags the film down with her melodrama. I don’t know whether it is her fault or just the way her character is written.

A Thousand Words is not as bad as everyone seems to make it out to be, but the hatred people seem to have for this film is understandable. The plotholes that haunt this film are too big to ignore, though, as is the fact that it can’t decide between comedy and drama. I wanted to like this film, I really did, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I cannot recommend this film, but I won’t say stay away. Be warned, though, that this is not a great motion picture.

2 3/4 out of 5 stars

Melancholia

Posted in Drama, Independent, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , on October 31, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film begins with an introductory sequence involving the main characters and images from space and introducing many of the film’s visual leitmotifs. A shot from outer space shows a giant planet approaching Earth; the two planets collide. The film continues in two parts, each named for one of two sisters.

In part one, “Justine”, a young couple, Justine and Michael, arrive at their wedding reception at a resort owned by Justine’s sister, Claire, and her husband, John. On several occasions, Justine looks at a particular red star, which seems to shine brighter than normal; John, an amateur astronomer, identifies it as Antares.

Over the course of the evening, Justine is frustrated by various personal and professional difficulties. Her bitter mother insults her in a toast, for which John attempts to throw her off of his property. Justine’s boss repeatedly harasses her to write ad copy before the end of the reception. Claire becomes frustrated with Justine and chastises her for not reacting to the reception with the joy she had anticipated. Justine drifts away from the party several times – including to take a nap with her young nephew, Leo – and becomes increasingly distant from her family and new husband. Michael attempts to console Justine with a wedding present – his purchase of an apple orchard for them to enjoy as they grow older – but Justine seems unmoved. When she and Michael retreat to their room for the evening, she brushes off his advances and goes walking on the grounds, where she has sex with a coworker in a sand trap. At the end of the party, Michael leaves her. At dawn the next day, Claire takes Justine horseback riding; Justine notices that the red star has disappeared.

In part two, “Claire”, Justine has become severely depressed. She comes to stay with Claire and John, who live in the mansion where the reception took place. Justine is unable to carry out normal everyday activities like taking a bath or even eating, but gets better over time. John explains that the reason for Antares’ disappearance was the rogue planet Melancholia, which has eclipsed the star. Melancholia, a blue gas giant[3] that had formerly been hidden behind the sun, becomes visible in the sky, approaching Earth. John is excited about the planet, and looks forward to the “fly-by” expected by scientists, who have assured the public that Earth and Melancholia will pass each other without colliding.

Melancholia’s first approach and final collision with Earth, as described (and shown briefly in a similar diagram) in the film
Claire is very fearful that the end of the world is imminent, despite her husband’s assertions that their family is safe. She searches the Internet and finds a site describing the movements of the planet Melancholia around Earth as a “dance of death” in which the apparent passage of Melancholia initiates a slingshot orbit that will bring the planets into collision soon thereafter. Justine tells Claire that life on Earth is evil, and that Melancholia will hit. Justine further informs her sister that her intuition tells her that Earth is the only planet in the universe with life, and that the destruction of Earth will mean the end of all life. On the night of the fly-by, it seems that Melancholia will not hit Earth. John, Justine, and Claire watch Melancholia rise on the night of the flyby and view it through a telescope. After the fly-by, background birdsong abruptly ceases. The next day, Claire realizes that Melancholia is circling back and will collide with Earth after all. John, who has come to the same realization, commits suicide. Claire finds his body and then tries to conceal his death from Leo and Justine.

Faced with the impending collision, Claire becomes distraught and suggests a “farewell party” on the terrace with wine and music. In response, Justine, unfazed by the impending doom, demeans Claire’s idea before going to comfort Leo. She makes him a protective “magic cave”, a teepee of wooden sticks, on the lawn of the estate. Justine, Claire and Leo enter the shelter as the planet approaches. Claire continues to remain agitated and fearful, while Justine and Leo remain calm and hold hands. Melancholia collides with Earth.

REVIEW:

Have you ever watched a film that was so depressing it made you want to cut your wrists but, at the same time, you couldn’t turn away because it was so riveting? That is the effect Melancholia had on me. I think this is a film that will be messing with my mind for weeks and months to come.

What is this about?

This inventive drama charts the disintegrating relationship between newly married twentysomething Justine and her melancholy sister, Claire, just as Earth hurtles toward certain collision with a newly discovered planet.

What did I like?

Visuals. The film starts with a series of still images that aren’t really in the film, but set to the music of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde they really set the tone for this dark, depressing film. The way this flick is shot is just stunning. Everything from the wedding until the final shot is something to behold. This director may be a bit eccentric, but you can’t question his vision.

Vampires with talent. A small bit of trivia…Alexander Skarsgård, Kirsten Dunst, Kiefer Sutherland have all been vampires. With the demise of the vampire lore by a certain franchise that shall not be named, it is good to know that former vampires, well current in the case of Skarsgård, can actually act. I was thoroughly impressed with the performances they all turned in, especially Dunst. I guess that’s what happens when you disappear for a little bit and resurface in an indie flick.

End of the world. The major theme in this film is the fear of the end of the world. As you may or may not know, according to the Mayan calendar, the world is supposed to end on December 21 of this year. Well, there is supposed to be some kind of event that ends things on that date. The is film could be foretelling with talk of a planet colliding with the earth. I don’t care what you may or may not believe, if a planet collides with ours, both will be destroyed, it is as simple as that.

What didn’t I like?

Boring. Yes, this film is intriguing and the surprise nude scenes with Kirsten Dunst will make you pay attention (who knew she was so well blessed), but when you get down to it, this is just not an interesting picture, at least from my perspective. I don’t want to give you the wrong idea that all I want to see is naked women and big explosions, but this narrative artsy-fartsy stuff isn’t my cup of tea.

Comedy. Going further on the previous topic, there are moments when the film seems as if it wants to lighten up a bit, but I guess this director went to the same school as Christopher Nolan and just doesn’t believe that people actually have fun, laugh, and joke around. A few jokes here and there would have done this film so good. It would have been much better than the bitchy mother they had in the first half of the picture.

Depressing. As I said in my opening statement, this film is so dark and depressing that it makes you want to slit your wrists. The basis for this film is from the director, Lars Von Trier’s, depression therapy sessions. All that is well and dandy, but I just felt as if there could have at least been something that wasn’t depressing. For goodness sakes, Claire gets divorced on her wedding day!!!

Melancholia is a really good film in terms of what it is. This is one of those pictures that was made to collect awards, obviously, and not bring in the general audience. Obviously, it isn’t for everyone, but those out there that enjoy these artsy-fartsy flicks will truly enjoy, especially if you’re into the more depressing ones. For me, though, I just found it to be a really good, but boring and depressing film that while it may mess with my psyche for a while, the plot will be forgotten in t-minus 10 minutes. Do I recommend this? Yes, but if you come away feeling horrible, don’t say I didn’t warn you!

4 out of 5 stars

The Brain from Planet Arous

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , on October 31, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

An outer-space terrorist from a planet named Arous – a brain-shaped creature named Gor – arrives on Earth and possesses young scientist Steve March. Gor then proceeds to use his vast, destructive powers to bend the world to his will, threatening to wipe out the capital city of any nation that defies him. (stock footage of test houses being flash incinerated in A-bomb tests, was used to show Gor’s psychic powers.)

Meanwhile, another brain from Arous – named Vol – arrives on Earth and eventually inhabits the body of March’s fiancee’s dog. Vol explains that Gor is a wanted criminal on their world. Gor’s only weakness is the Fissure of Rolando and he is only vulnerable during one brief period when he needs to exit his host to absorb oxygen.

REVIEW:

As I mentioned in an earlier review, I am embarking on a project that requires me to check out some classic sci-fi, be they good or bad. Continuing with that project, and because today is Halloween, how about some sci-fi horror in the form of The Brain from Planet Arous. This is a film that was suggested by a good friend from high school as something I should watch just for the music, but after watching it, I have to say that I actually enjoyed the film more than the music.

What is this about?

This sci-fi flick from the 1950s tells the fantastical story of Steve March (John Agar), a man whose body has been commandeered by an enormous alien brain named Gor that’s bent on conquering the Earth. With the help of another extraterrestrial brain that’s taken up residence in the family dog, Sally Fallon (Joyce Meadows) hatches a plan to stop the madness by locating Gor’s Fissure of Orlando — the alien equivalent of an Achilles’s heel.

What did I like?

Possession. The titular character is the villain of the film and not only controls people through his thoughts, but also possesses them. I don’t know of any other film that uses this as a plot device, but I’m sure there are some that use some variation. I do wonder how it is that he became intangible, though.

Eyes. I have to compliment the way the special effects department used special contacts, I assume, to create the look of eyes of the possessed. Even for a cheesy 50s sci-fi C-movie, this is a creepy effect that has help up some 60 yrs later. Super kudos to these effect designers! They really pulled off a great feat there.

Not predictable. Movies today seem to be extremely predictable, maybe that’s a result of stealing stuff from these classics from the 50s. With that in mind, I am extremely grateful that this film is not one of those where you can pretty much figure out what is going to happen. I’m sure that I am not alone in saying that this is something that audiences are tired of seeing these days.

What didn’t I like?

Brains. As I mentioned earlier, there is this weird intagibility the brains have that makes no sense to me.  On top of that, they are just badly thrown in here. It is obvious they were some other film spliced in there or something. I’m not sure if I cared for that, but I will say it was better than having some strange puppet where you could see the string like a toy plane that is shown at a point in this film. The eyes didn’t work fr me either. As a matter of fact, they put me in the mind of the brains from a couple of episodes from Aqua Teen Hunger Force. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if this influenced the design of those creations.

Humans. As can be expected, the human beings in this picture are pointless meatbags that are just there, with the exception of the one that was possessed. Why is it that alien films spend so much time on the humans? I will never understand this! It makes no sense and frustrates me to no end!!!

Planet Arous. Unless I missed it, they never really said where the planet Arous was, let alone how it is that these alien brains seem to resemble human brains. Is this a whole planet of brains that looks like yours or mine? How did that happens? Where is this place? I’m not saying we need to know the specific coordinates, but just saying that it is past the 4th moon of Pluto would have worked.

The Brain from Planet Arous is a cheesy, 50s sci-fi flick that isn’t some deep, intellectual story. It is good fun that may or may not appeal to you, depending on your tastes. For me, being a fan of cheesy classics, it is right up my alley. Yes, I have some issues with the film, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth watching. I tend to think this is more the kind of flick that you would see on a Saturday afternoon rather on your local stations, but hey, watch it where you can. Check it out sometime!

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Fido

Posted in Horror, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film takes place in a 1950s-esque alternate universe where radiation from space has turned the dead into zombies. This resulted in the “Zombie Wars”, where humanity battled zombies to prevent a zombie apocalypse, with humanity the ultimate victor. The radiation still plagues humanity, as all those who die after the original contamination turn into the undead, unless the dead body is disposed of by decapitation or cremation. In order to continue living normal lives, communities are fenced with the help of a governing corporation named Zomcon. Zomcon provides collars with accompanying remote controls to control the zombies’ hunger for flesh so as to use them as slaves or servants.

In the town of Willard, whose name is a reference to the town in the original 1968 Night of the Living Dead, housewife Helen Robinson (Carrie-Anne Moss) buys a zombie in spite of her husband Bill’s (Dylan Baker) zombie phobia, as Bill has had bad experiences with zombies having been a veteran of the Zombie Wars. Their son, Timmy (K’Sun Ray), befriends the zombie, naming him “Fido” (his true name is never revealed, and little is revealed of his “pre-zombie” life, except that he died of myocardial infarction, and at one point Helen wishes she had met him before she got married and when he was still alive). One day, Fido’s collar malfunctions and he kills their next door neighbor, who turns into a zombie. Timmy “kills” the zombified neighbor later, but not before she kills and infects another person, causing a small outbreak. Zomcom security forces quell the situation and then investigate what caused the outbreak.

When a pair of local bullies are blamed for the missing neighbor, they capture Fido and Timmy. Fido escapes and runs to find Helen, who comes and rescues Timmy from the bullies (who, through misadventure and Fido’s hunger for human flesh, are now zombies), and they try to forget about the whole thing. Several days later, the neighbor’s body is found and the murder is traced back to Fido, who is taken away to Zomcon where the public is told he will be destroyed. Timmy learns through Cindy Bottoms (Alexia Fast), daughter of Jonathan Bottoms (Henry Czerny), Zomcon’s abusive security chief, that Fido is simply working in a factory at Zomcon. Timmy sets out to rescue him with the help of Mr. Theopolis (Tim Blake Nelson), previous security chief of Zomcon who was forced into early retirement when it was discovered he was found guilty of fraternization with his female zombie, whom he has remarkably preserved well to retard her decaying process, thus giving her a relatively attractive appearance.

Meanwhile, Timmy locates Fido, but is captured by Mr. Bottoms, who attempts to throw Timmy into the zombie-infested “wild zone” that exists outside of the fenced communities. Bill comes to the rescue and is killed by Mr. Bottoms, who in turn is killed by Fido. Timmy is set free and the news media propagandizes that the Zomcom security breach was the fault of rednecks who venture out into the wild zone to hunt zombies for fun. Helen finally learns not to belittle Bill’s bad experiences from the Zombie Wars by paying for a headless funeral in order to prevent his zombification. The film ends with Fido as a surrogate father and husband, Timmy, Helen and Helen’s newborn baby by Bill as a new family. They, along with a few neighbors happily enjoy their new domestic lives together, including the zombified Jonathan Bottoms who is now more attentive to his daughter.

REVIEW:

Continuing with the horror comedy theme I seem to have going on this Halloween, Netflix actually recommended Fido. I’ve been seeing this thing pop up every now and then in various categories, but never really had an inkling to watch it. For some reason, today on a whim I figured it couldn’t hurt.

What is this about?

Director Andrew Currie’s imaginative horror-comedy follows the misadventures of typical boy-next-door Timmy Robinson (K’Sun Ray) and his very unusual pet — a loyal, lumbering zombie named Fido (Billy Connolly). Problems arise when Fido breaks loose and noshes on a neighbor. Timmy is suddenly forced into damage-control mode while he tries to persuade his parents (Carrie-Anne Moss and Dylan Baker) to keep Fido.

What did I like?

Welcome to the 50s. I’m a big fan of all things retro, and this film has that retro look down pat. Starting with the opening school film about the zombie wars and continuing with that bright-colored motif that tends to be prevalent in films that use this retro style. Remember how bright Speed Racer was? The same color scheme applies here, and I loved it!

Zombies. Before I started watching this, I caught a piece on ESPN about how former Pittsburgh Steeler Hines Ward would be guest starring as a zombie in an episode of The Walking Dead. What does that have to do with anything? Well, zombies on that show are mindless savages. The zombies here aren’t as violent, or so it seems, but  I’m sure if they were to lose those collars this nice little 50s utopia would become hell on earth. Zombies seem to be what vampires were a couple of years ago, so it is good to see different variation of them. Let’s just hope we don’t get any overdramatic, sparkly zombies!

Billy Connolly. This guy is seriously one of the most underrated actors around. He doesn’t have much to do here but limp around, grunt, and do zombie-type stuff. However, it takes some real talent to do all that and still come across as lovable. Kudos to Connolly for making this character endearing to the audience. That could not have been an easy task to accomplish!

What didn’t I like?

Trinity. In The Matrix, I loved Carrie-Ann Moss, despite her cold nature. This film allows her to show some emotion, which she does, but it is her look that doesn’t work for me. She just doesn’t seem to fit in with her costume and the look and feel of this world. I don’t know why she doesn’t, but it just doesn’t work, which is a shame. Maybe she should have done something with her hair?

Lizard. Dylan Baker has all the sympathy in the world from me since he was screwed out of being the Lizard in the Spider-Man films since they just had to reboot it. Don’t get me started on that. With that in mind, this whiny bastard he plays sort of makes me wonder if they just didn’t think he could handle such a role. It is ok that he is scared of zombies. That makes for a nice little backstory for him, but the fact that he whines about it and impedes on everyone’s life with his daddy issues.

Tammy. The whole film we see this creepy couple next door, Mr. Theopolis and his zombie, Tammy. Tammy doesn’t look half bad for a zombie, and as it turns out she has been well-preserved by Theopolis due to his ties to his former employer, Zomcon. Every neighborhood like this has to have that weird couple, but it just seems weird that he seems to have a relationship with this zombie. Having said that, it seems as if Carrie-Ann Moss’ character is ready to start something with Fido if she wasn’t married.

Fido is a fun film when all is said and done. I really enjoyed it and found very little that made me question why I was even watching it. Is this the perfect film? No, there are plenty of plot holes and oddities that leave you scratching your head, but it is the entertainment factor that really sells this film. To answer the question of if I recommend this or not…yes…yes, I do.

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

Elvira, Mistress of the Dark

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , on October 31, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Los Angeles TV horror hostess Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (Cassandra Peterson) quits her job after an outburst involving sexual harassment with the station’s new owner. She discovers she has been included in the will of her late great-aunt Morgana. Which entitles her to all of Morgana’s worldly possessions, a mansion in Fallwell, Massachusetts, a Bichon Frise who doesn’t really seem to be what it appears, and a book of what she considers cooking recipes. Despite her brazen and seductive exterior, she is determined to start a life in this conservative town and even striking up a friendship with Bob Redding (Daniel Greene), the local theater operator, and her “assets” and good nature also attract the attention of many of the town’s teenagers, much to the chagrin of their closed-minded parents who see her as a bad influence. Bob’s infatuation with Elvira also infuriates his love interest Patty who, with the help of several members of the school board and PTA sabotage Elvira’s good name and her attempts to open a late night film fest using Bob’s theater, the last straw breaking when in a Flashdance scene, she is covered in tar instead of a bucket of water and feathered by Patty, humiliating her. All the while, Elvira’s uncle Vincent Talbot (W. Morgan Sheppard) appears harmless, but he is in fact a warlock bent on finding Morgana’s secret “recipes” and using them to take over the world, and he is largely responsible for the suspicion of the town adults and their hatred toward Elvira.

Elvira tries to console herself and impress Bob by cooking dinner using one of Morgana’s recipes, and despite the oddity of the ingredients she succeeds, only to have herself and Bob attacked by a creature created from the mixture. Elvira discovers that the recipe book is actually a spellbook and plots to use the same creatures at the PTA picnic that weekend. The plan doesn’t go accordingly, however instead of being attacked by monsters, the adults lose their inhibitions and are suddenly tearing each other’s clothes off in promiscuity at the park, eventually being arrested for indecent exposure. Patty and Chastity, the head of the PTA, use this as a catalyst to accuse Elvira of witchcraft and the townsfolk decide to set an example and arrest her. The fear and hatred escalates, and despite the teenagers rallying to help her, they end up breaking into the wrong cell and become trapped. Elvira is taken to be burned at the stake and her dog transforms into a mouse and escapes to the mansion and obtains her great aunt’s ring who brings it to Elvira. Elvira casts a spell to make it rain and put out the fire that’s about to burn her and with Bob’s help she manages to escape. Discovering that Vincent is behind this, she tries to face him, but loses her ring and runs to retrieve her spell book from the house to combat him. Vincent gives chase and when they arrive, their combat lights the house on fire. In the fray, Vincent loses Morgana’s ring and Elvira uses it on him, expelling him to the underworld. She and Bob manage to escape the house before it is completely engulfed in flames.

The next morning, Elvira, whose house was salvageable, and all of her aunt’s possessions and magical objects were destroyed is ready to leave town. She is approached by Chastity who apologizes for their behavior and a shamed Patty who was embarrassed by Elvira the night before, as well as all the teenagers who, with Bob try to convince Elvira to stay. As she has nowhere to stay, she opts to leave town, but not before kissing Bob, hinting at a blooming relationship. The scene follows Elvira’s experiences as portrayed in a suave and sexy song and dance number on a Las Vegas stage, now officially labeling her as “Mistress of the Dark

REVIEW:

First off, Happy Halloween, everyone! I hope that you all have a safe night out there trick or treating!

Now, on to business…I remember, back in the day, that Elvira was a hot commodity. What I mean by that is that everywhere you look, you would see her, or someone trying to impersonate her. I don’t know about you, but I had no idea she was the star of her own film, Elvira, Mistress of the Dark. I guess the question now is whether or not it is worth watching, right?

What is this about?

When her great-aunt dies, famed horror hostess Elvira heads for the uptight New England town of Falwell to claim her inheritance of a haunted house. But once the stuffy locals get an eyeful of the scream queen’s ample assets, all hell breaks loose.

What did I like?

Ample bosom. Look, if there are a couple of things Elvira is known for, it is her ample bosom which are prominently on display. Being a guy who is a fan of large breasts and cleavage, of course this is going to be something that I like. That is not to mention that there really isn’t much to like about the rest of this film.

Witchcraft. Elvira developed this character as a horror queen, but not really any particular type of “monster”, for lack of a better term. Looking at her, I can’t help but think of Morticia Addams. They even have similar facial features. It turns out that Elvira is a witch, even if she doesn’t know it. That little added bit of her history brings some depth to her already vapid character.

Evil. Ever notice whenever there is a will reading how there is that one person, usually a relative, who turns out to be the villain? Elvira’s “uncle” is no exception. This guy is apparently an evil warlock that is responsible for the death of her great-aunt, Morgana.

What didn’t I like?

Acting. I can’t sit here and not mention how bad the acting is in the film. It isn’t the worst that I’ve seen, but it is pretty bad, even for a B-movie. I wasn’t expecting great performances, but everyone either over or underacted throughout this whole picture. I have to wonder if this is partially due to the script, or just the lack of acting talent these so-called “actors” have, or both. There is a reason this was nominated for a Razzie.

Cookbook. The cookbook that is at the center of the plot doesn’t really serve as big of a purpose as it should. When it was introduced, I half expected Uncle Vincent to do everything he could to get it and then come close to either taking over the world or bringing it to the brink of destruction. Instead, he just makes it known that he wants the book and that is has magical powers, afterwards, he is gone for half of the film, only to resurface in the last half of the picture to begin his final quest for the book and attempt to destroy Elvira.

Townsfolk. The kids I have no problem with. As a matter of fact, as with most towns that are like this, they are the opposite of their parents. Speaking of the parents, the whole moral, holier than thou thing that they have going just didn’t work. It actually hurts the town more than anything, just look at how sheltered everything is, and how business, particularly at the movie theater, is almost non-existent. You would think someone would get the picture, but I guess not.

Elvira, Mistress of the Dark is not a good film, but it is decent enough to make it a cult favorite. There isn’t much to recommend about it, but if you’re in the mood for something a little lighter than your typical horror, slasher stuff this Halloween, then this could be something to get you warmed up for the gorefest you’re set to enjoy this evening. Other than that, unless you’re a fan of Elvira, there isn’t a real reason to watch this.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Battleship

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

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

NASA discovers an extrasolar planet, called Planet-G, with conditions similar to Earth and transmits a powerful signal from a communications array in Hawaii. Meanwhile slacker Alex Hopper gets arrested while attempting to impress Samantha Shane, daughter of United States Pacific Fleet commander Admiral Terrance Shane. Stone Hopper, Alex’s older brother and a Commander under Terrance, is infuriated at Alex’s lack of motivation and forces Alex to join him in the United States Navy. By 2012, Alex is a lieutenant aboard the Arleigh Burke class destroyer USS John Paul Jones, while Stone is the commanding officer of USS Sampson. Alex is in a relationship with Samantha and due to disciplinary problems is in danger of being discharged from the Navy. Their ships, along with others from around the world, are taking part in RIMPAC naval exercises in Hawaii.

During the training exercise five alien spacecraft arrive in response to the NASA signal. Their communications ship crashes in Hong Kong, while four others land in the water near Hawaii. Sampson, John Paul Jones, and the JMSDF Kongō class destroyer Myōkō investigate, but are trapped when the alien mothership erects a tower that creates a force field over and around the Hawaiian islands. After shots are fired the aliens destroy Sampson and Myōkō, and damage John Paul Jones, killing the commanding and executive officers. Alex takes command as the most senior officer left on the ship, while also learning that Stone was killed on the Sampson. The John Paul Jones recovers survivors from Myōkō, including Captain Nagata, whom Alex is in a rivalry with.

Meanwhile the aliens have taken over the communications array on O’ahu. Nearby, Samantha, a physiotherapist, is accompanying retired Army veteran and double amputee Mick Canales on a hike to help him adapt to his prosthetic legs. They meet scientist Cal Zapata, who is fleeing from the array. Zapata informs them that the aliens are likely planning to bounce a signal to their home planet off NASA’s Project Beacon satellite, but the satellite will not be in range for another five hours. Zapata then agrees to retrieve a radio that will allow Samantha and Mick to contact the John Paul Jones and relay this information.

Back on the John Paul Jones, the crew faces difficulty because the alien force field has disabled radar functions. Nagata suggests using the tsunami warning buoys around Hawaii to track the aliens, and as their ship monitors the NOAA buoy technology the surge of the advancing alien ships generates detectable wave action. During a night battle, the aliens and the humans exchange shots in a manner reminiscent of the “Battleship” board game. The John Paul Jones sinks two alien ships but is unable to hit the third. Alex had learned from crew mate Jimmy Ord that the aliens were sensitive to sunlight after they had captured one, and decides to lure the third alien vessel close to shore, where he and Nagata shoot out its bridge windows as the sunrise blinds the aliens. In the ensuing battle, both ships are destroyed.

Fearing the aliens are contacting a larger invasion fleet, Alex needs to destroy the alien mothership and tower next. But since his ship has been destroyed the survivors are forced to return to base and acquire the only remaining naval vessel, the USS Missouri. Although decommissioned and turned into a museum ship, they are able to reactivate it with the aid of the retired veterans preserving her. The battleship manages to evade the alien weapons fire by deceiving the alien threat-detection system, engages the alien mothership with its powerful main guns and destroys the force field it was maintaining. Alex uses the last shell to destroy the communications array on the island, leaving the Missouri defenseless. However, with the force field barrier down, US Navy and Royal Australian Air Force jet fighters from the RIMPAC fleet arrive and eliminate the last alien vessel. A ceremony is held to honor the navy personnel and Alex asks Admiral Shane for his daughter’s hand in marriage. The Admiral initially refuses but invites Alex to lunch to discuss the matter. A post-credits scene in Scotland shows three schoolchildren and a handyman running off in terror as an alien hand reaches out of an object they have just broken open.

REVIEW:

When I was growing up, we had games like Connect Four, Candy Land, Sorry, Operation, Hungry Hungry Hippos, and of course Battleship, amongst countless others. I don’t think anyone would have imagined the little electronic guess game going on to be the big budget flop that is Battleship.

What is this about?

The classic Battleship board game moves to the big screen in this at-sea adventure about defending planet Earth from a mysterious enemy fleet. At the center of the action is a pair of naval officer brothers and their commanding superior.

What did I like?

You sank my battleship. Yes, the filmmakers did find a way to get a classic game of Battleship in there. They were actually quite creative in terms of the plot. They even manage to get the classic phrase, “you sank my battleship” in there. Let’s face it folks, as skeptical as almost all of us were when we heard about this project, the one thing we all wanted to see was the classic Battleship game played.

Try, try again. Taylor Kitsch is probably the best actor with the worst luck. As we all saw on Friday Night Lights, he does have talent. However, the films he’s been in have been not-so-well received. I liked them, though. I give him all the credit in the world for sticking to his guns. Eventually, he’ll get a good role and people will for get the ones that critics hated.

Brooklyn. I loved Brooklyn Decker in Just Go With It, and not just because of the slo-mo scene with her coming out of the water. I didn’t find her as hot here, but I did feel like she improved her acting, which is a big plus, especially for a supermodel. It could spell big things for her in the future. Of course, now that she’s had Liam Neeson as a father, she’s sure to be kidnapped (a little Taken franchise humor).

What didn’t I like?

Aliens. I don’t know about any of you, but when I played Battleship as a kid, I never envisioned aliens having anything to do with it. I really have to wonder possessed them to use aliens. Sure, they had some cool tech, but when you see the things, they aren’t very menacing. They almost seem like subterranean mutants.

Leftovers. When I first saw the trailer for this, I thought it was a fourth Transformers movie or maybe the Go-Bots were going to get a shot, but that wasn’t the case. It turns out that the same company that did the CGI for the Transformers movies, did this as well. Apparently, he has a specific style he likes to keep to. Problem is, a year removed from Transformers: Dark of the Moon, this comes off as just unused stuff that he just wanted to have seen the light of day. I can totally see some of this stuff having been tried out for the Decepticons.

Rihanna. Anytime a singer appears in a film, people are going to be torn on how they feel about them. Almost everytime Whitney Houston was in a movie, audiences loved her, yet almost every other diva has been all but burned at the stake for their on-screen performances. Rihanna dips her toe in the acting pool with this small role as a weapons specialist. She wasn’t horrible, but I felt like she did this just to avoid being cast as a singer. This role was too small to judge her talent, and she spent most of the time joking with Jesse Plemons’ character. Like most of the film, she is too big a name to be use in the way she was.

Battleship will go down as one of the biggest flops of 2012. I think the studio was hoping that this was going to be a huge hit and the start of a franchise, not to mention the launch of a new fad of games being turned into movies. Based on the results of this film, I don’t believe either will happen. That being said, I can’t say that I hated the flick. For me, it was a solid summer action flick. I’m glad I didn’t waste the money to see it in theaters this summer, but I can imagine that it did look fascinating up there on the big screen. My one regret about this film is that I didn’t know parts of it were filmed right across town down there on the river. I may have to go back and visit that old museum. In the end, I don’t recommend this to everyone, but I’m sure there is a niche audience that will make this a cult favorite in the future.

3 out of 5 stars

House on Haunted Hill

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

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film is set in an abandoned asylum, the Vannacutt Psychiatric Institute for the Criminally Insane. The head of the facility, Dr. Richard B. Vannacutt (Jeffrey Combs), performed grotesque experiments and medical procedures on the patients, killing many in the process. The hospital was closed in 1931 after the patients escaped from their cells, killing almost the entire staff (all except 5) and burning the hospital. All the patients died, their souls rumored to be trapped there forever. Vannacutt had rigged the building with numerous iron gates, activated by cranks and levers, to serve as barriers to keep patients from leaving the building, should they escape; some of these were controlled by huge, clock-like timers that wouldn’t open for twelve hours. During the fire, he released these gates, keeping the inmates, employees and the fire itself contained. After several unexplained deaths during reconstruction of the facility, it was dubbed “The House on Haunted Hill”.

Evelyn Stockard-Price (Famke Janssen), a spoiled trophy wife, is in a disintegrating marriage with Stephen Price (Geoffrey Rush) (“Price”, as well as Rush’s appearance, is a nod to actor Vincent Price, who played the same character “Frederick Loren” in the original film), an amusement park mogul with a wicked sense of humor, each of whom would gladly kill the other. Evelyn fancies spectacular parties. Stephen leases the house from the owner, Watson Pritchett (Chris Kattan), for Evelyn’s Halloween birthday bash. Evelyn gives Stephen a guest list two pages long; he shreds it to spite her and then creates one of his own. The five people who show up for the party – Jennifer Jenzen (aka Sara Wolfe) (Ali Larter), Eddie Baker (Taye Diggs), Melissa Margaret Marr (Bridgette Wilson), Dr. Donald Blackburn (Peter Gallagher), and Pritchett himself – aren’t the ones he invited. Neither Evelyn nor Stephen know who they are. Despite this, Price continues the party’s theme, offering $1 million to each one who stays in the house and survives until morning, with any person not making it having his money added to the pot.

Shortly afterward, the security gates are tripped, locking everyone inside and forcing them to remain there until the gates unlock in the morning. After finding a coffin with more coffins filled with guns, Sara, Eddie and Pritchett decided to take one of the guns. Meanwhile, Price scolds Carl Schecter (Max Perlich), a company employee – who has developed a series of harmless traps to scare the guests— for not letting him know he planned to pull a stunt like that. Schecter said it wasn’t him who did it. Price is then convinced his wife did it somehow. Meanwhile, Pritchett, Eddie and Sara go downstairs to find a way to open the gates. During that, Sara was tricked by one of the ghosts who pretends to be Eddie and also luring her to the bathtub full of blood and also this terrifies Sara.

Shortly after, Melissa is killed by one of the ghosts when she wanders off into the basement of the house. It’s revealed that the spirits themselves created the guest list specifically to include the descendants of five members of Vannacutt’s staff who didn’t die in the long-ago fire. Also, it is revealed that Evelyn and Blackburn are working together to bring down Stephen. Evelyn, who was brought back to life with a needle by Blackburn then kills Blackburn and uses his body to frame Stephen. Sara, who heard Melissa moaning in the basement, comes across an incoherent Stephen in the basement, and believing that he is Blackburn’s murderer, shoots him when he approaches her. After the others return upstairs, Evelyn approaches Stephen to gloat, and Stephen, protected by a bullet-proof vest, attempts to kill Evelyn. The two scuffle down a corridor before Price violently throws Evelyn through a decaying door. Inside the rotting room, the two realize they just stumbled upon the evil core of the house that Prichett warned them about all along. The Darkness which is a dark, shape-shifting creature composed of the spirits in the house, awakens and begins to take form in between the two of them. As both come under the shocking reality that the house is really haunted, Evelyn quickly tries to sprint past the monster but is captured by the Darkness’s grasp. It starts assimilating and corroding Evelyn into itself, killing her while Price watches in horror.

The Darkness emerges fully in front of Price and takes the form of newly joined Evelyn, revealing that it is composed of “everyone who died and is responsible”. This force begins to pursue Price with the intention of killing all the remaining guests trapped inside. Upstairs, Pritchett, Eddie and Sara are trying to open one of the iron gates, which Eddie and Sara unsuccessfully tried earlier, on the windows when they hear Price’s screams from down the hall. Pritchett investigates, and The Darkness kills him while Price temporarily evades it. Price runs through the hall while Sara and Eddie follow. Price confirms that “the house is alive” and figures that the only way to get out is to go to the attic and try to escape through there. Price runs ahead of them to find an escape route while Sara and Eddie stay behind, trying to take in what just happened. Quickly, Sarah and Eddie realize they are in danger and flee as The Darkness begins to seep through the house, manipulating the walls and shattering the floors, going full force to kill who remains.

As they are running up the stairs to the attic, Sara trips, and the Darkness uses Melissa’s form to try to lure her to it. Price by then has activated a pulley that reveals an opening in the window of the attic. Eddie and Sara arrive in the attic, while the Darkness seeps up the cracks of the wooden floor. Price sacrifices himself to give Sara time to escape, but the Darkness then severs the rope holding the iron gate, trapping Eddie inside.

When The Darkness confronts Eddie about his ancestor’s actions, it takes on several forms of damned spirits including Melissa & Evelyn who taunt him about his doom. Realizing he is about to be taken, Eddie screams out of desperation that he was actually adopted. As the Darkness prepares to assimilate Eddie, Pritchett’s ghost suddenly appears and opens the iron gate. The Darkness is distracted by Pritchett long enough for Eddie to escape out the window to Sara safe on an outside ledge. Pritchett’s ghost and the Darkness then both fade away. As Sara and Eddie sit in exhaustion over the night’s events, they notice an envelope halfway through the gate. It contains five checks for $1 million each.

In an epilogue, a film is shown with the patients torturing Evelyn and Price in what appears to be “the other side”, the assumption that everyone killed in the house relives death for eternity

REVIEW:

In 1959, Vincent Price starred in a film that would go to be a groundbreaking piece of horror cinema. 40 years later, the “geniuses” in Hollywood decided that it should be remade. House on Haunted Hill is nothing more than an attempt to grab some cash out of horror fans while rehashing more of the same old tired cliches we’ve come to expect from this genre.

What is this about?

When five strangers accept tycoon Steven Price’s $1 million proposal to stay one night in a former insane asylum, they think it’s child’s play until Price’s rigged antics are accompanied by real menacing spirits. Can everyone make it till dawn?

What did I like?

Respect. As much as I detest remakes, I have to tip my hat to this one for at least honoring the greatness of the original. Geoffrey Rush plays a character named Steven Price, an obvious nod to Vincent. He even has the moustache and hair like the master of horror had. If they ever wanted to do a Vincent Price movie, perhaps they should think of using Rush.

Oh, no they didn’t. I think I’ve been brainwashed, bamboozled or something because from the time Taye Diggs shows up to the first murder, I was expecting him to die. You know, that belief that “the black man is always the first to die”. Either these film makers took that into consideration and didn’t off him so early, or they wanted someone else to be first.

Mongo. In his days on Saturday Night Live, Chris Kattan was a pretty funny guy, at least when he was doing one of his characters. Never would I have expected him to go on and show he has some acting chops, as he does here. Granted, he does still have some manic tendencies, but he shows that he does have the ability to play a normal human being, rather than some weird primate type man, like his character of Mongo.

What didn’t I like.

No ties. We have here 5 people who are sure to be murdered before the night is over. The problem is that the film never lets us get any connection with them, which takes away from the murders. I guess the rush to show some blood was more important that developing the characters.

Flashback. Personally, with all the gruesome talk about what went on in this asylum, and what I’ve heard talk of on shows like Ghost Adventurers, I think they should have set aside a few moments here and there to show what went on. For instance, when they came to the electro shock room, they should have shown a fkashback of that, even if they did kind of show it in the beginning.

Are you afraid of the dark? It turns out that all the people who died and suffered make up this dark entity that is behind everything. I’ll give them credit, that was a nice touch, but the creature itself looked like some cheaply made Halloween decoration. The way this thing was built up, one would expect it to be much more of a menace, but alas, it wasn’t.

House on Haunted Hill falls short in nearly every category that it tries to succeed in. I’ve never seen the Vincent Price version, but I’m sure it is not a piece of worthless crap like this. Why, oh why, is Geoffrey Rush in this? He is far too talented to be in films that are nothing but an insult to the audience. Do I recommend this? No, as a matter fo fact, I’ll go so far as to  say you should avoid it like the plague!

2 1/4 out of 5 stars