Archive for November, 2012

Team America: World Police

Posted in Action/Adventure, Comedy, Movie Reviews, Spoofs & Satire with tags , , , , , , , on November 30, 2012 by Mystery Man

https://i2.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/5/53/Team_america_poster_300px.jpg/215px-Team_america_poster_300px.jpg

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Team America exists to stop terrorists from committing world crimes. With a home base within Mount Rushmore, the team consists of: Lisa, a psychologist; Carson, Lisa’s love interest; Sarah, an alleged psychic; Joe, an all-American jock who is in love with Sarah; and Chris, a technological and martial arts expert who harbors a mistrust of actors. The team is led by Spottswoode, a United States government agent. I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E. is their highly-advanced supercomputer. The team stops a terrorist attack on Paris, France, destroying the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, and the Louvre in the process, and Carson proposes to Lisa afterwards, but is killed by a dying terrorist. In search of a new member, Spottswoode recruits Gary Johnston, a Broadway actor who is to use his acting talents to infiltrate terrorist organizations. Both Lisa and Sarah become romantically attracted to him. but Chris hates him due to his past as an actor. Unbeknownst to the team, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il is supplying international terrorists with weapons of mass destruction, planning a worldwide attack.

I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E. is informed of a terrorist meeting in Cairo, Egypt, and Gary goes in undercover, infiltrating their group by feigning fluency in Arabic, which he speaks as gibberish and randomly inserting “derka”, “jihad” and “Muhammad”. The team captures the terrorists, but their actions again leave most of the city in ruins. The group is criticized by the Film Actors Guild (F.A.G.), a union of liberal Hollywood actors. The group includes Gary’s favorite actor, Alec Baldwin, and his heavy criticism is discouraging to Gary. Gary confesses to Lisa that his acting talent caused his brother to be killed by gorillas, and they consummate their relationship while a group of terrorists blow up the Panama Canal. The terrorists claim this is retaliation for Team America’s attack in Egypt, and the Film Actors Guild blames the team. Gary, realizing his acting talents have once again resulted in tragedy, abandons the team. The team is attacked and captured by North Koreans while investigating a terrorist base, and meanwhile Michael Moore infiltrates the team’s base and suicide bombs the area. Kim Jong-il, upset with the terrorists’ actions, expresses his frustration and despair by singing “I’m So Ronery, and meanwhile Gary slips into alcoholism.

In North Korea, Kim Jong-il plans to host an elaborate peace ceremony with Alec Baldwin as the host, inviting not only the Film Actors Guild, but also the world’s political leaders. During the celebration, a series of bombs will be detonated throughout the world, reducing every nation to a Third World country. Gary returns to the Team’s headquarters in Mount Rushmore and finds only ruins, although Spottswoode and I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E. have survived. After regaining Spottswoode’s trust by performing oral sex on him, and undergoing a one-day training course (shown as a montage for comic effect), Gary is sent to North Korea. Gray frees the team and a battle ensues with the Film Actors Guild, during which Chris confesses to Gary that his mistrust of actors is due to the fact that he was raped by the cast of Cats at the age of nineteen. Gary convinces the world leaders that people like Team America are needed to keep worse people like Kim Jong-il at bay, reciting a speech he heard from a drifter. Kim Jong-il then kills Alec with an assault rifle, but is defeated by Lisa and impaled on a Pickelhaube. Kim’s bombs are disarmed, and he is revealed to be a cockroach from another planet, departing in a miniature spaceship promising to return. The team reunites to fight terrorists worldwide once again

REVIEW:

South Park is one of my favorite shows and Parker and Stone have shown that they are comic geniuses, at times. When Team America: World Police was released I wasn’t able to see it, mainly because the girl I was dating at the time was about as hard core pro-war as one can be without joining the military and would defend any and everything that had to do it while discounting anything that was against it. Needless to say, that relationship didn’t last very long. Finally, after all these years, I’m finally getting around to watch this in its entirety.

What is this about?

“South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone apply their acerbic wit to global crime-fighting in this musical satire about an all-marionette police force that takes on the challenging role of keeping peace on a troubled planet. Wherever there’s a dictator itching to rule the world, Team America flies in to dismantle the government. The team’s newest recruit is Gary Johnston, a Broadway star who just may have found his true calling.

What did I like?

Puppets. I’m an avid supporter of hand-drawn and stop-motion animation, as they have proven time and time again to be the most entertaining, but these marionettes could be an overlooked medium. Yes, you can say it looked a little sloppy, but take a moment and think about the kind of humor that Parker and Stone are known for. The fact that the strings are so obvious is part of their vision.

Tongue-in-cheek. The acronyms used, more specifically what they ended up spelling out. I won’t spoil either, you just have to watch and see for yourself, but I will say that it goes back to the kind of humor we have come to expect from these two.

Sex. Yes, there is a sex scene, and it involves two puppets. Puppets sex is a strange thing, and it does seem to be rather oddly placed in here, but like a car wreck, one can’t help but keep looking. There is a reason this is listed as one of the all-time best sex scene in cinema. Can you believe they actually had to cut it down to avoid an NC-17 rating?

What didn’t I like?

Story. I don’t know what it is about the actual plot of this flick, but I just didn’t connect with it. For a big screen motion picture, this really should have been something…I don’t want to say special, but better. The silliness of it all was fine and dandy, and actually kept my interest, but there’s only so far that can go.

Political. I am no fan of politics, and let’s face it, even thought this is a satirical look at how America seems to think they are the world police, hence the title, I just didn’t seem to care for it. No, it isn’t because it differed from my viewpoint, I just wasn’t a fan of all the political stuff.

No Bush. It seems as if this film did everything but bash Bush. I have to wonder why, though. It seems as if this would have been the perfect opportunity to spoof the then President. It doesn’t seem as if Parker and Stone are exactly pro-Bush, but I could be wrong.

Team America: World Police is notable for the use of marionettes, but in terms of film, I sort of felt it was overrated. With the lack of actual voice actors here, this could have very well have been used as an episode of South Park. That being said, this isn’t a film that should be avoided, but something you should check out at least once.

3 1/4 out of 5 stars

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Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 29, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

When Rainbow Brite (Bettina Bush) and her magical horse Starlite (Andre Stojka), go to Earth to start spring, they meet Stormy (Marissa Mendenhall), another magical girl who controls the season of winter with her horse Skydancer (Peter Cullen). Stormy, however, doesn’t want to end her winter fun, so Rainbow battles her for control over the season. Stormy proves to be no match for Rainbow and Starlite, who outrun her and head off to Earth. When they arrive, they meet up with Brian (Scott Menville), the only boy on Earth who can “see” Rainbow and Starlite.

Once Rainbow tries to start spring, however, her power weakens and winter remains. Brian becomes worried that spring will never come and senses that all of humanity is losing hope. Even Stormy is confused. Reassuring Brian that they will do what they can to return spring, Rainbow and Starlite return to Rainbowland.

Rainbow is paid a visit by a strange robotic horse with rockets for legs named On-X (Pat Fraley). He presents an urgent message from a legendary Sprite named Orin (Les Tremayne) who explains the luminous and magical planet Spectra, a planet of pure diamond that “all light in the universe has to pass through,” has grown dark. If it dims completely, all life in the universe will die.

Rainbow takes the mission to find Orin and later learns that Spectra is dimming as the result of a massive net being woven around the surface. The net is being made so that a selfish princess (Rhonda Aldrich), known only as the “Dark Princess,” can steal Spectra, “the greatest diamond in all the universe,” for herself, and tow it back to her world with her massive spaceship. The native Sprites of Spectra, enslaved by Glitterbots under the Princess’s control, are being forced to weave the net. Now Rainbow has to stop the Princess’s plan before all life on Earth is frozen solid by an endless winter.

Helping Rainbow and Starlite is Krys (David Mendenhall), a boy from Spectra. Krys believes he can take on the evil Princess and save his home world himself without the help of a “dumb girl.” When they meet Orin, the wise Sprite tries to make the two children get along and work together to stop the evil Princess. Orin tells them that they can only destroy her by combining their own powers against her.

Getting in the way of their mission is the sinister Murky Dismal (Peter Cullen) and his bumbling assistant Lurky (Pat Fraley) who, as usual, are lavishing in the new gloom created by the darkening of Spectra, as well as trying to steal Rainbow’s magical color belt.

After dodging Murky, Rainbow and Krys enter the Dark Princess’s castle and try to convince her that what she is doing will destroy the universe, but the spoiled and uncaring Princess is determined to have the diamond planet for herself and traps the children instead. Working together, Rainbow and Krys escape and use their powers to destroy the Princess’ spaceship, which extends an array of robotic claws to grab the net around Spectra. (It is often assumed that Princess herself is also destroyed in this scene, but she actually returns in the Rainbow Brite animated series’ 1986 episode “The Queen of the Sprites”.)

Once the Princess is defeated, the enslaved Sprites are freed and immediately destroy the net so that Spectra radiates its magical light once again. On Earth, a warm spring finally arrives as life returns to the planet and Rainbow returns to Rainbowland finding her friends are back to normal.

REVIEW:

Growing up in the 80s, it was nigh impossible to escape the barrage of Rainbow Brite commercials that aired. Strangely enough, though, I don’t think there were any during little girl cartoons like Jem or My Little Pony. I was not planning on watching this, even in my wildest dreams, but a certain person in this house insisted on watching Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer.

What is this about?

The dark princess is up to no good! She’s snatched the Spectra — the universe’s sole source of light. Without Spectra in its rightful place, all will be plunged into gloom and dreariness unless Rainbow Brite and her friends can defeat the princess. In an animated cosmos of enchanted worlds, spunky Rainbow Brite and her magical horse, Starlite, confront evil by using color, magic, cleverness and joy as ammunition.

What did I like?

Nostalgia. The animation and voices brought back lots of memory from my childhood, as the company that produced this is responsible for many of the hit cartoons of the 80s, and the voices are some of the most popular and recognizable of the time, including Peter Cullen.

Happy. Let’s see here, we have little girls, shiny things, and rainbows. The default recipe for supposed happiness, something that has been sorely missing from any and everything anymore these days. Yeah, it could be construed as too sugary sweet, but that is the point on Rainbow Brite, from what I can tell.

What didn’t I like?

Princess. From what I gather, Murky and Lurky are actually Rainbow Brite’s arch-nesmeses, but here they are nothing more than a couple of second-rate stooges trying to appear as if they’ve accomplished an evil feat of grand proportions. For some reason, whenever a cartoon in the 80s got a movie, it barely resembled the show, going so far as to introduce new characters and downplay old ones. This is how we get Princess, who has to be one of the most annoying antagonists I’ve ever come across in my lifetime!

On-X. This is one cool looking horse, definitely an upgrade from Starlite. For all the props I give to his design and powers, his stuttering/short circuit thing didn’t make sense to me. Perhaps there is something I missed or don’t know in Rainbow Brite lore, but this ended up being nothing more than a distraction for me.

Music. This is an 80s film, so the music isn’t going to be the greatest in world, but it should be at least entertaining, and cheesy. However, I wasn’t feeling these songs. I bring to mind that episode of Family Guy where Brian and Stewie are in the multiverse and end up in a world that resembles a Disney cartoon. That 20 second song was better than the 2 or 3 that populate this soundtrack.

Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer obviously was not meant for male viewers, even though they tried to force that boy, Krys down our throats. This is a cartoon just for the girls, and they can have it. I think my gender severely biased me against this film from the beginning and I just couldn’t get over it, but I just didn’t find this film entertaining, even for an 80s cartoon. If you were a fan of the cartoon as a child, then that would be the only reason to watch this, otherwise it is best to forget this even exists, if you know what’s good for you, that is.

2 1/3 out of 5 stars

Revisited #5: The Day the Earth Stood Still

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Revisited, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 29, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

An extraterrestrial flying saucer is tracked flying around the Earth until it lands on the President’s Park Ellipse in Washington, D.C.. Klaatu (Michael Rennie) emerges, announcing that he has come from outer space on a goodwill mission. When he takes out and opens a small device, Klaatu is shot and wounded by a nervous soldier. In response, Gort, a large humanoid robot, emerges from the ship and begins disintegrating the weapons present with a ray coming from a visor-like structure on its head. Gort continues until Klaatu orders him to stop. Klaatu explains that the now destroyed object was a viewing device, a gift for the President.

Klaatu is taken to an army hospital, where he is found to be physically human, but stuns the doctors with the quickness of his healing. Meanwhile the military attempts to enter Klaatu’s ship, finding it impregnable. Gort stands by, mute and unmoving.

Klaatu reveals to the President’s secretary, Harley (Frank Conroy), that he bears a message so momentous and urgent that it must be revealed to all the world’s leaders simultaneously. Harley tells him that it would be impossible to get all of the world leaders to agree to meet. Klaatu wants to get to know the ordinary people. Harley forbids it and leaves Klaatu locked up under guard.

Klaatu escapes and lodges at a boarding house, assuming the alias “Mr. Carpenter,” the name he finds on the cleaners tag on the suit he “borrowed.” Among the residents are Helen Benson (Patricia Neal), a World War II widow, and her son Bobby (Billy Gray). At breakfast the next morning, during alarming radio reports, Klaatu takes in his fellow boarders’ suspicions and speculations about the alien visit.

While Helen and her boyfriend Tom Stephens (Hugh Marlowe) go on a day trip, Klaatu babysits Bobby. The boy takes Klaatu on a tour of the city, including a visit to his father’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery, where Klaatu is dismayed to learn that most of those buried there were killed in wars. The two visit the heavily guarded spaceship and the Lincoln Memorial. Klaatu, impressed by the Gettysburg Address inscription, queries Bobby for the greatest person living in the world. Bobby suggests a leading American scientist, Professor Jacob Barnhardt (Sam Jaffe), who lives in Washington, D.C. Bobby takes Klaatu to Barnhardt’s home, but the professor is absent. Klaatu enters and adds a key mathematical equation to an advanced problem on the professor’s blackboard, and then leaves his contact information with the suspicious housekeeper who attempts to rub out the equation with an eraser although is told not to by Klaatu.

Later, government agents escort Klaatu to see Barnhardt. Klaatu introduces himself and warns the professor that the people of the other planets have become concerned for their own safety after human beings developed atomic power. Klaatu declares that if his message goes unheeded, “Planet Earth will be eliminated.” Barnhardt agrees to arrange a meeting of scientists at Klaatu’s ship and suggests that Klaatu give a demonstration of his power. Klaatu returns to his spaceship the next evening to implement the idea, unaware that Bobby has followed him.

Bobby tells the unbelieving Helen and Tom what has transpired, but not until Tom finds a diamond on the floor of Klaatu’s room do they begin to accept his story. When Tom takes the diamond for appraisal, the jeweler informs him it is unlike any other on Earth.

Klaatu finds Helen at her workplace. She leads him to an unoccupied elevator which mysteriously stops at noon, trapping them together. Klaatu admits he is responsible, tells Helen his true identity, and asks for her help. A montage sequence shows that Klaatu has neutralized all electric power everywhere around the planet except in situations that would compromise human safety, such as hospitals and airplanes.

After the thirty-minute blackout ends, the manhunt for Klaatu intensifies and Tom informs authorities of his suspicions. Helen is very upset by Tom’s betrayal of Klaatu and breaks off their relationship. Helen and Klaatu take a taxi to Barnhardt’s home; en route, Klaatu instructs Helen that, should anything happen to him, she must tell Gort “Klaatu barada nikto”. When they are spotted, Klaatu is shot by military personnel. Helen heads to the spaceship. Gort awakens and kills two guards before Helen can relay Klaatu’s message. Gort gently deposits her in the spaceship, then goes to fetch Klaatu’s corpse. Gort then revives Klaatu while the amazed Helen watches. Klaatu explains that his revival is only temporary; even with their advanced technology, they cannot truly overcome death, that power being reserved for the “Almighty Spirit.”

Klaatu steps out of the spaceship and addresses the assembled scientists, explaining that humanity’s penchant for violence and first steps into space have caused concern among other inhabitants of the universe who have created and empowered a race of robot enforcers including Gort to deter such aggression. He warns that if the people of Earth threaten to extend their violence into space, the robots will destroy Earth, adding, “The decision rests with you.” He enters the spaceship and departs.

REVIEW:

My favorite classic sci-fi film of all time, outside of the holy trilogy, is The Day the Earth Stood Still. Some dumbkopf had the brilliant idea to remake this sparkling gem and accomplished nothing but tarnishing its legacy, prove why remakes should never be made, and making one of my top 5 worst films of all time, and I’ve seen some really bad ones!  As far as I’m concerned, the remake doesn’t exist, but how about the original?

What is this about?

A humanoid envoy (Michael Rennie) from another world lands in Washington, D.C., with a warning to Earth’s people to cease their violent behavior. But panic erupts when a nervous soldier shoots the messenger, and his robot companion tries to destroy the capital. A sci-fi hallmark that offers wry commentary on the political climate of the 1950s, this Golden Globe-winning classic is less concerned with special effects than with its potent message.

What did I like?

Message. Violent ways will be the end of us all, and we need to all get along. That is the basic message of this great film, in my summation. Klaatu gives a great speech at the end that says the same thing ,but I’m not nearly as eloquent or articulate. Much like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, this film is a commentary on the attitudes of the era. Sad thing is, both films were released the same year and here it is 61 years later and these attitudes and actions haven’t changed very much. It really is sad when you think about it.

Age ain’t nothin’ but a number. It is often mentioned how actors from this era seemed to be ageless. Well, look at Klaatuu. It is stated rather early in the flick that he is 75, but looks to be in his late 30s, this is because his planet’s science and medicine has advanced so far beyond ours. Michael Rennie, who plays Klaatu, was nearly 50 when this was made and released, yet looked to be in his 30s, whether that was coincidental or not, it is a nice little factoid.

Music. You know that eerie sound you hear in some horror movies and golden age sci films, such as this? That is called a theremin. I believe that it was created as a burglar alarm in Russia. This mysterious instrument is featured heavily in the score, especially the theme. Bernard Hermann’s masterful score really sets the mood for this film.

What didn’t I like?

Hugh. It seems that Hugh Marlowe is always playing the suspicious boyfriend in every film I’ve seen him in. Sure, it may work for him, but I don’t particularly care for it, especially in this film. Yeah, he may have thought he was protecting his prospective fiancée’, but as we see later in the film, he is more out for #1, a feat that is something we see all too often.

Gort. I love Gort. How can you not like a giant robot enforcer with the power to destroy an entire planet? The thing I don’t like about him, though, is that he seems to lumber around like a bad version of Frankenstein. I am taking into consideration this era and all that, but there are Godzilla puppets that moved better than Gort, in my opinion.

Stranger. After escaping from the hospital,Klaatu appears in the doorway of a boarding house. Seeing as how this is the 50s and a boarding house, that wasn’t an issue, but the fact that he doesn’t know much about Earth culture and acts as if he has never seen any of it ever before should have tipped someone off that he might very well have been the alien that everyone was after. A small complaint, though.

Military. When Klaatu arrives, the military is there to meet him, complete with tanks, guns and everything. As he is coming out of his ship, he produces what can be assumed to be a weapon, but turns out to be a present for the president. Without warning, some trigger-happy soldier shoots it out of his hand injuring him in the process. As it is said later in the film, the slightest act of aggression will send Gort into action. Basically, it comes down to this…that stupid soldier could very well have caused the end of the world. He’s just lucky Klaatu was able to stop Gort. This is a common problem with military in alien movies. They act way too soon!

The Day the Earth Stood Still is an immortal sci-fi classic, proven so by the fact that its central them still resonates today. Yes, you can say its a bit  dated, but come on people, this was made in the early 50s. The technology wasn’t there back then, so get over it! This is a film that I highly recommend you see ASAP. It is most definitely in my top films of all time, and I’m sure you will feel the same!

5 out of 5 stars

Dark Shadows

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

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1760, the Collins family migrates to America from Liverpool and sets up a fishing port in Maine, naming it Collinsport. Some years later, the son, Barnabas (Johnny Depp), seduces his family’s maid, Angelique Bouchard (Eva Green), who is a witch. When he tells her he doesn’t love or want her, Angelique kills Barnabas’ parents. Barnabas then falls in love with Josette du Pres (Bella Heathcote). In a fit of jealousy, Angelique bewitches Josette into leaping from a cliff to her death. Barnabas leaps after her in grief, but he survives because Angelique turns him into an immortal vampire. She rouses a mob to capture and bury Barnabas alive in a chained coffin in the woods and curses his family.

One hundred ninety-six years later, in the year 1972, construction workers accidentally free Barnabas from his coffin, who slakes his two-century hunger by feeding on and killing his rescuers. He makes his way back to his manor to find it inhabited by his dysfunctional descendants and their servants—the family matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer); her brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller); her 15-year-old daughter Carolyn (Chloë Grace Moretz); Roger’s 10-year-old son David (Gulliver McGrath); Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), David’s psychiatrist; Willie Loomis (Jackie Earle Haley), the manor’s caretaker; and Victoria Winters (Heathcote), David’s newly-hired governess and Josette’s reincarnation. Upon convincing Elizabeth of his identity by revealing a secret treasure room behind the fireplace, Barnabas is allowed to stay under the condition that he never reveal either the room or the fact that he is a vampire to the rest of the family. He must also pretend to be a distant relative from England who has come to restore the family’s business and reputation in town. He soon becomes very deeply attracted to Victoria, whom he briefly mistakes for his lost Josette, and immediately begins to pursue her.

As Barnabas helps revitalize the Collins’ fishery and manor, he is approached by Angelique, who has used her powers to establish a successful rival fishery called Angel Bay. She tries to win him back, later convincing him to make wild, passionate love with her, but he still rejects her, telling her that he loves Victoria instead. He restores his family’s name by inviting the entire town to a party at the manor featuring Alice Cooper, where Victoria reveals to Barnabas that her parents committed her to an insane asylum as a child because she could see and talk to Josette’s ghost. They kiss and confess their feelings to each other, unknowingly enraging Angelique who has witnessed the scene. Meanwhile, Dr. Hoffman has discovered Barnabas’ true nature after hypnotizing him. She convinces him to try to turn himself back to a regular human via blood transfusions, but her real intent is to use his blood to turn herself into a vampire to avoid aging. Upon discovering this betrayal, Barnabas drains her to death and dumps her body into the ocean. Barnabas catches Roger trying to find the secret room and exposes Roger’s lack of interest in his son. Barnabas then gives him a choice of either staying and being a good father to David or leaving the family. Roger chooses to leave, deeply wounding his son’s feelings. Soon afterward, Barnabas rescues David from a falling disco ball and stumbles into a beam of sunlight, burning his skin and exposing his secret to the horrified children and Victoria.

Later that night, Angelique calls Barnabas into her office, coaxes him into confessing Dr. Hoffman’s murder, and traps him in another coffin that she leaves in his family’s crypt. She then burns down the Collins’ canning factory and plays a recording of the murder confession to the police and gathered townsfolk, once more turning them against the family. Angelique leads the mob to Collinwood manor to arrest the family, but Barnabas is rescued from the coffin by David and he shows up at the manor and attacks Angelique in front of the mob, thereby exposing both his and her true natures. As the townspeople disperse, Angelique sets fire to the manor and admits her role in the family’s curse, including turning Carolyn into a werewolf and killing David’s mother at sea. Barnabas and the Collins family fight Angelique until David summons his mother’s vengeful ghost. The ghost gives a single scream which knocks Angelique into a chandelier. Before she dies she pulls out her heart and offers it to Barnabas; he refuses the heart and it shatters as Angelique dies. Barnabas then discovers that Angelique has bewitched Victoria into jumping off the same cliff Josette did. Barnabas arrives moments before Victoria is about to jump and breaks her hypnosis, but she reveals she wanted to fall. She pleads with him to make her a vampire so that they can remain together forever, but he refuses. She then casts herself off, forcing him to follow and bite her to save her life, and Victoria wakes up as a vampire. As the two kiss on the rocks in the waves, the film ends with an underwater scene showing a school of fish swimming away from Hoffman, who suddenly revives because she’s a vampire .

REVIEW:

In the 60s, Dark Shadows was a cult soap opera with supernatural themes, similar to one we had not that long ago called Passions. I don’t believe the soap was terribly popular, but it did last a few seasons and has gone on to become a cult favorite. If you are a fan of the series, you have my deepest sympathies for what Tim Burton has done.

What is this about?

Tim Burton’s take on the cult gothic soap follows a centuries-old vampire as he returns to his now-crumbling estate to meet his modern descendants. But what he finds is a house full of secrets and shadows.

What did I like?

Vision. I don’t think that there is a Tim Burton flick that I don’t instantly fall in love with the contrast of light and dark. Well, maybe Alice in Wonderland, but the rest are a nice mix of bright-colored backgrounds with dark stories and characters. This contrast even goes as far as the makeup. The ruby-red lips that Dr. Hoffman and Angelique are sporting, as well as Hoffman’s red hair really stand out in this macabre, dreary town.

Depp. I have to give it up to Johnny Depp, he really creates a vampire that could be frightening, and yet likable. He’s an unapologetic, bloodthirsty, vengeful, lecherous member of the undead and makes no apologies for it. This is a stark contrast to the vampires that have been polluting the screens the past few years. Depp also knocks it out of the park with his acting. I was expecting another character with that same British accent he uses eveyrtime he plays someone from across the pond, such as Jack Sparrow or Sweeny Todd.

70s and new blood. The 70s setting makes for quite some interesting experiences for someone who lived in the 19th century. It is quite the culture shock, especially when you see someone names Alice Cooper, who turns out to be “one ugly woman”. The infusion of two new, extremely attractive actresses, as opposed to the same ones we’ve seen over and over again, Eva Green (Angelique) and Bella Heathcote (Maggie/Victoria/Josette), not to mention the growing star of Chloe Grace Moertz.

What didn’t I like?

Change. I’m torn as to what I think of the change in tone from the original series. On one hand, I enjoyed it, as a film by itself. However, I did watch some episodes of the series this summer, and there were very few things that resembled this film, or vice versa. As I said before, if you’re a fan of the series, I feel your pain for what Burton did to something you truly love. At least they kept the supernatural aspect intact, and the comedy bits add a little spice to it.

Angelique. As much as I was drooling over Eva Green, I wasn’t too fond of the character, Angelique. She is one of those that does nothing but use her feminine wiles and witchcraft to manipulate the town into loving her and doing her bidding, but when Barnabas returns from the grave, she knows it could all very well end, ironically by one of her “creations”. The cracking porcelain face was a nice touch, though.

Pick a genre. One critic said that this film couldn’t decide what genre it wanted to be, horror, comedy, drama, etc. I have to agree, though it wasn’t as much of a distraction for me. I would have liked for it to go full on comedy since that is the direction they chose to go, with a few horror and dram a elements. This is based on a soap opera and deals with vampires, after all.

Ending. I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that it sets up very nicely for a sequel. The problem is, they kind of tip their hat a little early by showing something they shouldn’t have while this particular character is getting killed. I guess that is more of a goof than a complaint…for now.

Dark Shadows provides some nice entertainment and will probably go on to be a cult favorite in years to come. The film was labeled as a flop this summer, but it came out the week after The Avengers, which went on to be #1 for like close to two months. I think this would have done better being released around Halloween. Do I recommend it? Yeah, this is one of those film you can start off your scary movie parties with as a warm-up, or if you’re into the horror comedy thing, couple this with something like Fido, This definitely worth checking out and is better than people give it credit for. Admittedly, I think I liked it more than I should have!

4 out of 5 stars

Invasion of the Body Snatchers

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

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Psychiatrist Dr. Hill is called to the emergency ward of a hospital, where a frantically screaming man is held in custody. Dr. Hill agrees to listen to his story. The man identifies himself as Dr. Miles Bennell, and recounts the events leading to his arrest in the flashback that follows.

In the fictional town of Santa Mira, California, Miles Bennell, a local doctor, has a number of patients accusing their loved ones of being impostors. Another patient is a former girlfriend of his, the recently divorced Becky Driscoll, who tells him that her cousin Wilma, has the same fear about Uncle Ira. Dr. Dan Kauffman, a psychiatrist in the town, assures Bennell that the cases are nothing but “epidemic mass hysteria”.

That same evening Bennell’s friend Jack Belicec finds a body with what appear to be his features, though it’s not yet fully developed. The next body found is a copy of Becky in the cellar of her house. When Bennell calls Kauffman to the scene, the bodies have mysteriously disappeared and Kauffman suspects Bennell of falling for the same hysteria. The following night Bennell, Becky, Jack and Jack’s wife Teddy again find duplicates of themselves, emerging from giant pods. They conclude that the townspeople are being replaced in their sleep by perfect physical copies. Miles tries to call long distance for help from outside resources, but the phone operator claims that no long-distance calls are possible. Jack and Teddy drive away to get help. Bennell and Becky discover that most inhabitants have already been replaced, and are now devoid of any humanity. They flee to Bennell’s office to hide for the night.

The next morning they see that truckloads of pods are being sent to neighboring towns, to replace even more humans. Kauffman and Jack, both of whom are now “pod people”, reveal that an extraterrestrial life form is responsible for the invasion. After the takeover, they explain, life loses its frustrating complexity because all emotions and sense of individuality have vanished. Bennell and Becky manage to escape and hide in a mine outside of town. While Bennell inspects a near-by farm where more pods are bred, Becky falls asleep and is instantly taken over. She informs the “pod people” where to find Bennell, who runs onto the next highway, frantically screaming to passing motorists, “They’re here already! You’re next! You’re next!”

Bennell finishes his story. Dr. Hill and the doctor on duty doubt his account until a highway accident victim is hospitalized, who had been found under a load of giant pods. The men realize that Bennell’s story is fact and begin to alert the authorities.

REVIEW:

Thinking about some of the great sci-fi flicks from the 50s, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is one that almost immediately comes to mind. This is my first time ever watching it, though.

What is this about?

Evil-intentioned extraterrestrials capable of replicating humans and assuming their identities invade the sleepy California hamlet of Santa Mira. It’s up to the local doctor to sound the alarm and almost single-handedly battle the alien forces.

What did I like?

Test of time. Nearly 60 years after its initial release, this film is still relevant. You can make the case for the visuals, but you can do that for stuff that came out just last year, if you think about it. The horror aspect of this film though is quite freaky, especially since we have the technology (but don’t use it) to clone humans. Think about what it would be like to have a “perfect” version of yourself replace you!

Body snatchers. You know, they never really say that these alien pod people are body snatchers. However, once you see the pods spit out these clones, you know that something is going on that really shouldn’t be allowed to happen. I also really liked the foamy bubbles that were coming out of the pods. It was something different. If this were made today, those bubbles would be replaced with some kind of gross slime. Bubbly foam>slime, if you ask me.

Downtime. Movies of this era aren’t as fast paced as today’s faire because they actually took the time and care to put out a film people want to see and not to just make a buck. For this reason, there are a couple of moments of downtime, but they are very brief, and serve to show the audience a bit of the proverbial “calm before the storm”, as well as develop some characters before they get snatched.

What didn’t I like?

Aliens. A few weeks back, I reviewed The Brain from Planet Arous, which was another alien possession film. I bring that up because the brains actually showed their true form. I don’t recall these aliens showing what they actually look like, unless the pods are their true form, which I highly doubt. No, we don’t need this to be some giant alien flick, but at some point it would have been nice to see what we were up against.

Flashback and ending. Films that use flashbacks as a way to set up the plot are hit and miss with me. I’m not so sure what I think about this one, I was on board with it at first, then we get to the ending, and it just seems as if this should have ended more on a down note. Perhaps there is an alternate ending that is more of what I was looking for. Unfortunately, though, the ending they used didn’t work for me.

Small town. I like that, for once, the aliens decided to not invade Washington, L.A., or New York, but the small town of Santa Mira. That was actually a good idea to start an alien invasion. Unfortunately, I wasn’t a fan of how long it took them to get things moving, especially since it took up until the last scene to start moving to other towns/cities.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers has a well deserved reputation as one of the gold standards of sci-fi. I enjoyed this film immensely, but I can’t say that it is one that will be on my must-see list. That being said, I highly recommend it to everyone. It is a great film that everyone should see before they die!

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

Animals

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

animals

PLOT:

Syd Jarrett is an unsuspecting, down-and-out man in a washed-up hick town whose life is turned upside down when the drop-dead gorgeous Nora walks through the door of the local bar. Jarrett’s passion for Nora leads him peripherally into a sub-culture of animals where he encounters Vic, a renegade whose animal instincts are stronger than his human ones. As things begin to get even worse, Jarrett realizes that his best chance for happiness, and survival, lies in his true love for Jane

REVIEW:

Sometimes Netflix suggests films that it assumes I am going to like. Animals is such film, but I am afraid to say that they were off the mark with this suggestion.

What is this about?

After sleeping with Nora (Nicki Aycox), a sexy stranger passing through town, Syd Jarrett (Marc Blucas) undergoes a supernatural transformation that plunges him into a new reality and sparks conflict with Vic (Naveen Andrews), Nora’s angry ex-lover who behaves more like an animal than a man.

What did I like?

Different. The last werewolf I saw on film looked more like a teddy bear in their werewolf forms and in their human forms couldn’t keep their shirts on. Even though the werewolves here are some kind of CG astral projection. The first time I saw it I wasn’t a fan, but then I got to thinking…how often do we see something different that doesn’t alienate purists? I still don’t love it, but I give the flick all the props for trying to be innovative.

Eva. Ever since Saved!, I have been in love with Eva Amurri. I was loving her being the girl being ignored for the “hot girl”. Something tells me that before she became a star, this was her life. Although I didn’t quite get the special powers of hers. Maybe if I ever watch this again, I can catch a line or two I missed that might explain that little mystery.

What didn’t I like?

Jealous much. The antagonist of this flick is basically a jealous, abusive, controlling boyfriend of the chick that turns Marc Blucas’ character into a werewolf. The problem is that he doesn’t get any real kind of build up. We are introduced to him in the beginning, he appears here and there pissed off, and then he shows up for the climax. He has the look to pull off the “villain”, but without some background, he comes off as nothing more than a bully.

Blood. For a film that has werewolves feeding on people, there sure is an extreme lack of blood. I don’t need to see buckets and buckets of it, but for goodness sakes there needs to be something that lets us feel that the werewolves are going around slaughtering, and other than the climax, we really don’t get much.

Plot. This whole film really makes no attempt at moving nay kind of story along. One minute we’re flashing to the woods, next thing we’re in a bar, then a construction site. It was too herky jerky for my taste. I guess that it the reason this went straight to DVD.  At least I believe it never made it to theaters. The fact that this was actually greenlit and released though should have cost some jobs.

Animals is the kind of flick that you’ll forget as soon as the credits roll. Is it a bad film? Not really, but it certainly isn’t good. I can’t really recommend it, but I won’t dissuade anyone from seeing it. There are a couple of moments that are worth watching, but not enough to gush over. Feel free to watch at your own risk!

2 3/4 out of 5 stars

Prometheus

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , on November 24, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

As a hovering spacecraft departs an Earth-like world, a humanoid alien drinks a dark bubbling liquid, then starts to disintegrate. The alien’s remains cascade into a waterfall. His DNA triggers a biogenetic reaction.

In 2089, archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw and Charlie Holloway discover a star map in Scotland that matches others from several unconnected ancient cultures. They interpret this as an invitation from humanity’s forerunners, the “Engineers”. Peter Weyland, the elderly CEO of Weyland Corporation, funds an expedition to follow the map to the distant moon LV-223 aboard the scientific vessel Prometheus. The ship’s crew travels in stasis while the android David monitors their voyage. Arriving in 2093, they are informed of their mission to find the Engineers. Mission director Meredith Vickers orders the crew to avoid making contact without her permission.

The Prometheus lands near a large artificial structure, which a team explores. Inside they find numerous stone cylinders, a large, monolithic statue of a humanoid head, and the decapitated corpse of a large alien, thought to be an Engineer. They find other bodies and presume the species is extinct. David secretly takes a cylinder, while the remaining ones begin leaking a dark liquid. A rapidly approaching storm forces the crew to return to Prometheus; Shaw takes the Engineer’s head. Crew members Millburn and Fifield are left stranded in the structure. In the ship’s lab, the Engineer’s DNA is found to match that of humans. David investigates the cylinder and the dark liquid inside. He then intentionally taints a drink with the substance and gives it to an unsuspecting Holloway. Shortly after, Shaw and Holloway have sex.

Inside the structure, a snake-like creature kills Millburn, and sprays a corrosive fluid that melts Fifield’s helmet. Fifield falls face-first into a puddle of dark liquid. When the crew return, they find Millburn’s corpse. David separately discovers a control room containing a surviving Engineer in stasis, and a star map highlighting Earth. Meanwhile, Holloway sickens rapidly. He is rushed back to Prometheus, but Vickers refuses to let him aboard, and at his urging, burns him to death with a flamethrower. Later, a medical scan reveals that Shaw, despite being sterile, is pregnant. Fearing the worst, she uses an automated surgery table to extract a squid-like creature from her abdomen. Shaw then discovers that Weyland has been in stasis aboard Prometheus. He explains that he wants to ask the Engineers to prevent his death from old age. As Weyland prepares to leave for the structure, Vickers addresses him as “Father”.

A mutated Fifield attacks the Prometheus’s hangar bay and kills several crew members before he is killed. The Prometheus’s captain, Janek, speculates that the structure was an Engineer military installation that lost control of a virulent biological weapon, the dark liquid. He also determines that the structure houses a spacecraft. Weyland and a team return to the structure. David speaks to the Engineer after waking him from stasis. The Engineer responds by decapitating him and killing Weyland and his team. Shaw escapes from the spacecraft as the Engineer activates it. Shaw warns Janek that the Engineer is planning to release the liquid on Earth and convinces Janek to stop the spacecraft. Janek ejects the lifeboat and rams Prometheus into the alien craft, while Vickers escapes in an escape pod. The Engineer’s disabled spacecraft crashes onto the ground; its wreckage crushes Vickers. Shaw goes to the lifeboat and finds her alien offspring is alive and has grown to gigantic size. David’s still-active head warns Shaw that the Engineer has survived. The Engineer forces open the lifeboat’s airlock and attacks Shaw, who releases her alien offspring onto the Engineer; it thrusts a tentacle down the Engineer’s throat, subduing him. Shaw recovers David’s remains, and with his help, launches another Engineer spacecraft. She intends to reach the Engineers’ homeworld in an attempt to understand why they wanted to destroy humanity.

In the lifeboat, an alien creature bursts out of the Engineer’s chest.

REVIEW:

This was hyped as one of the best films of the summer, but Prometheus came off as nothing more than a generic sci-fi flick filled with over-prices special effects, half asleep actors, and a subpar script. The mythos of the Alien franchise is also lost on me, as I have never seen any of them in their entirety, to my recollection.

What is this about?

When scientific explorers unearth an artifact that points to the origins of humankind, they’re pulled into the unexpected adventure of a lifetime. But if they falter, the very future of their species is at stake.

What did I like?

Breathtaking. The opening scene in this film is sure to take you breath away with the sheer beauty of the scenery. It reminds me alot of the first time we see Pandora in Avatar. I have to believe that those few moments with this gorgeous bit of nature were meant to be longer, but cut down to get the film going. That really is a shame, because once it does, there is nothing that even resembles this again, thanks to the barren wasteland it becomes.

New-mi. If you are going to reboot a franchise like this, then you sure as heck better get someone who can fill the shoes of Sigourney Weaver. I’m not so sure that Noomi Rapace accomplished that small feat, but she did etch her own path. Her character gives us that mixture of feminine love and affection, while being able to show she’s not afraid to mix it up with some alien creatures.

Refresh. I’m no fan of reboots, but I can at least stomach them, as opposed to remakes. Let’s face it, the alien in this franchise doesn’t have the same shocking impact that it once was. If you were to suddenly see this thing jumping out at you in a dark alley, I don’t think you would be as scared, if at all, as you were back when the franchise started. That is a product of the oversaturation these films have received. Think about how many sequels there have been! With all that said, it is good to know that we are getting the beginning of said creature. Maybe that will bring the intimidation factor back?

What didn’t I like?

Common sense. I fund it odd that these people, some of which are highly intelligent, seemed to have no common sense. For instance, why in the bloody blue hell would you go into a place filled with some kind of strange egg-type structures and then start messing with things? That is a sure-fire recipe for disaster, as this film shows us.

Real boy. I was not a fan of Charlize Theron before this film, and I think afterwards, I’m even less of one. This character she plays was more robotic than David, the android. She isn’t necessarily the villain, but she sure isn’t our hero. I felt she could have brought something more to the table. As it is, her character is just there to be there. Hell, she even interferes in a couple of missions, so you just know she’s such a nice lady now, right? On the other hand, David was totally likable, even though he doesn’t particularly fall into the role of being a good guy, either, but he’s just following his program. What I found odd about him, besides Fassbender trying to make him sound like HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, is that he may very well have been the most human character in the entire film.

Aliens. There is some debate as to whether this is or isn’t a direct prequel to the Alien franchise. As I said earlier, I haven’t seen any of them, so I can’t really comment on how this relates or doesn’t relate, but one thing is for certain, there is a definite lack of alien life forms in here. I’m not saying this needed to be some kind of alien infestation…yet, but it would have been nice to actually see a few species rather than this oozing liquid and the engineers.

When the smoke clears, Prometheus puts the viewers in one of two camps. You’re either going to love to hate this flick. For me, I didn’t totally hate it, but I’m far from loving it, that’s for sure. As a matter of fact, I was bored through more than half of it. That being said, I can see how people would be interested in it. I’m just not the one. For me, this was just an average outing, nothing more, nothing less.

3 out of 5 stars