Archive for December, 2012

Les Misérables

Posted in Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 30, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1815, convict Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is released on parole by prison guard Javert (Russell Crowe) after serving a nineteen-year sentence. He is offered food and shelter by the Bishop of Digne (Colm Wilkinson), but later steals the Bishop’s silver during the night. He is caught by the authorities, but the Bishop says that the silver was given as a gift, and secures Valjean’s release. Ashamed by the Bishop’s generosity, Valjean breaks his parole and vows to start an honest life under a new identity. Javert swears he will bring the escaped convict to justice.

Eight years later, Valjean has become a factory owner and mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer. Fantine (Anne Hathaway), one of his workers, is discovered to be sending money to her illegitimate daughter, Cosette (Isabelle Allen), who lives with the unscrupulous Thénardiers (Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter) and their daughter Éponine (Natalya Angel Wallace), and is dismissed by the foreman (Michael Jibson). Left with no option, Fantine turns to prostitution. During an argument with an abusive customer, Javert, now a police inspector, arrests Fantine, but Valjean intercedes and takes her to a hospital.

Later, Valjean learns that a man believed to be him has been arrested. Unable to condemn an innocent man, Valjean reveals his identity to the court before departing for the hospital. There he promises a dying Fantine that he will look after her daughter. Valjean finds Cosette and pays the Thénardiers to allow him to take her, and promises to be like a father to her.

Nine years later, Jean Maximilien Lamarque, the only government official sympathetic toward the poor, is nearing death. Students Marius Pontmercy (Eddie Redmayne) and Enjolras (Aaron Tveit), together with street urchin Gavroche (Daniel Huttlestone), discuss fomenting revolution. Later Marius catches a glimpse of Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), now a young woman, and instantly falls in love with her. Meanwhile, despite Cosette’s questioning, Valjean refuses to tell her about his past or Fantine.

At a café, Enjolras organises a group of idealistic students as Lamarque’s death is announced. Meanwhile, Éponine (Samantha Barks), now Marius’s friend, leads him to Cosette, where the two profess their love for one another. Lamenting that her secret love for Marius will never be reciprocated, Éponine fatalistically decides to join the revolution. Later, an attempted robbery of Valjean’s house makes him mistakenly think that Javert has discovered him, and he flees with Cosette. As they leave, Enjolras rallies the Parisians to revolt, and Marius sends a farewell letter to Cosette.

The next day, the students interrupt Lamarque’s funeral procession and begin their assault. Javert, disguised as one of the rebels, spies among the revolutionaries, but is quickly exposed by Gavroche and captured. During the ensuing gunfight, Éponine saves Marius at the cost of her own life, professing her love to him before she dies. Valjean, intercepting the letter from Marius to Cosette, goes to the barricade to protect Marius. After saving Enjolras from snipers, he is allowed to execute Javert. When the two are alone, Valjean frees Javert and fires his gun to fake the execution. Initially disbelieving, Javert wonders at Valjean’s generosity.

With the Parisians not joining the revolution as the students expected, they resolve to fight to the death. Everyone is killed but Marius, who is saved when Valjean drags his unconscious body into the sewers. Thénardier, scavenging the dead bodies, steals Marius’s ring. Valjean recovers and escapes the sewers carrying Marius, but is confronted at the exit by Javert. Javert threatens to shoot Valjean if he doesn’t surrender, but Valjean ignores him. Unable to reconcile the conflict between his civil and moral duties, two things which he always considered the same, Javert commits suicide.

Later, Marius mourns for his friends but Cosette comforts him. Revealing his past to Marius, Valjean tells him he must leave because his presence endangers Cosette, and makes Marius promise never to tell her. Marius and Cosette marry; the Thénardiers crash the reception and testify that they saw Valjean carrying a murdered corpse in the sewers. Thénardier unwittingly shows Marius the ring that he stole from him as “proof.” Recognising the ring, Marius realises that it was Valjean who saved his life. Marius and Cosette rush to Valjean after being told his location by Thénardier.

As Valjean sits dying in a local convent, he perceives the spirit of Fantine appearing to take him to Heaven. Cosette and Marius rush in to bid farewell. Valjean hands Cosette his confession of his past life, and the spirits of Fantine and the Bishop guide him to paradise, where he joins the spirits of Enjolras, Éponine, Gavroche, and the other rebels at the barricade.


My freshmen year of college, we opened our marching band show with the music from Les Miserables. It may come as a surprise to some, but up until a few minutes ago, I had no idea what the songs were that comprised that 2 1/2 minute medley. I just listened to it again, and found myself singing along, as if I knew the words as well as an Earth, Wind, & Fire song.

What is this about?

Based on the novel by Victor Hugo, ‘Les Miserables’ travels with prisoner-on-parole, 24601, Jean Valjeun, as he runs from the ruthless Inspector Javert on a journey beyond the barricades, at the center of the June Rebellion. Meanwhile, the life of a working class girl with a child is at turning point as she turns to prostitution to pay money to the evil innkeeper and his wife who look after her child, Cosette. Valjean promise to take care of the child, eventually leads to a love triangle between Cosette, Marius who is a student of the rebellion, and Eponine, a girl of the streets. The people sing of their anger and Enjolras leads the students to fight upon the barricades.

What did I like?

Stage to screen. In the Golden Age of Hollywood, musicals were all the rage. Some of them were real close to their Broadway counterparts, while others shared only the name. I cannot say for certain, but it seems as if this film didn’t try to do anything special with the sets, other than find and/or build real life version of what was used in the stage version. You have to give them credit for that, as audiences these days want bigger, better, more, as opposed to simplistic and authentic.

Better than the rest. Earlier this year, when the Grammys were on, someone asked me, “I wonder how it feels to be Adele and know that you are hands down the most talented singer in that entire room, and probably the world?” The same thing can be said for Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman. They are far and away the most talented members of this cast, though, I see some budding young musical talent in Samantha Parks and Aaron Tveit.

Casting. In the good old days, actors were actually trained, as opposed to being picked up off the street because they had “the look”. This is how we got people like Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Julie Andrews, Ginger Rogers, and their ilk. These talents were trained to not only act, but sing, and possibly dance. These days, that is such a rare occurrence, but Hugh Jackman has proven over the last few years, that it may be a good idea to go back to those days. This whole cast, with the exception of Russell Crowe, seems as if they were trained in musical theater. A couple of them, I know for sure, have been starring in London’s version of Broadway (I forgot what it is called, sorry). The one weak link is Russell Crowe. I’ll get to him shortly. Also, how perfect casting can you get than Anne Hathaway and Amanada Seyfreid. They both have those big “anime eyes” and could actually pass for mother and daughter because of some similar facial structure. Don’t forget young Cosette, who I think they did an exhaustive search to find someone who looks that much like Seyfreid. There is no way they could have been that lucky to have just come across her.

Dream. Susuan Boyle made us all sing “I Dreamed a Dream” all over the place a couple of years ago but, believe me when I say this, Anne Hathaway will blow you away with her rendition. Once you see the context in which that song is placed and watch Hathaway give, arguably, the performance of her career as she tears your heart out with each note, showing that she is more than a pretty face, but a true acting and singing talent.

What didn’t I like?

Length. I don’t believe they cut anything from the original stage version, so this is pretty much the same show you would see on Broadway, just on a grander scale, obviously. However, and this may because yesterday I sat through two nearly three hour movies and have a two more sitting in the living room waiting to be watched, but I felt that this was a scoche long. Having said that, I can’t really say where you could cut anything out.

Opera. Since there are very few lines not sung in this musical, some have called it an opera. I won’t go into a big spiel on the actual definition of an opera, but just because everyone is singing doesn’t make it an opera. Think about it like this, the Star Wars saga (that includes the prequels that people seem to hate so much) is often called a space opera, and other than that weird singing alien George Lucas added in to Jabba the Hutt’s palace, there is no singing, that I can recall, except the Ewok celebration after everything is over.

Opera mouth. Keeping on the subject of opera, I have to mention this because it sort of bugged me. Eddie Redmayne has some real chops, but he needs to do something about his facial movements when he sings. Watch a Broadway or opera singer perform, or you can watch Jessica Simpson sing, she does the same thing. You’ll notice that they move their mouth when they sing long notes, and so does Redmayne. It wouldn’t have been such a bother, except no one else does it!

Crowe. Russell Crowe impressed me with his singing skills. With this and his role in the upcoming Man of Steel, it looks like the guy is on his way to reviving his career. Here is the problem, though, his vocal chops don’t do him any good, especially against the likes of Jackman. He wasn’t as bad a Piece Brosnan in Mamma Mia!, but I still cannot help but think they should have gone with someone else. I’m sure Gerard Butler wouldn’t have minded dusting off his singing chops for this, or they could have gone with Paul Bettany, who was rumored to have originally been cast in the role.

Comic relief. I’m the last person to have issue with comic relief, especially in something that’s more on the serious side, as this film is. However, if you’re going to have comic relief, they cannot be a nuisance, but I found Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter’s characters to be nothing more than your typical lowlife vagrants. I’m not sure if that is how they are actually written in the book and/or musical, but I wasn’t a fan. Seems to me that they could have done something else, like be funny narrators, for instance.

Accents. This whole film is set in France, except maybe the opening scene, but I think that is just off the coast of France. At any rate, here we have these French people all speaking with British accents. I cannot be the only one that noticed this! I don’t get why they chose to give them all British accents. The little street urchin, Gavroche, has a cockney accent, as do the hookers and other peoples that mess chop off Fantine’s hair and send her to a life of, shall we say, less that wholesome living?

The few complaints that I have about Les Miserables are minor and can be considered nitpicky. I don’t intend to come off as if I didn’t enjoy the film, because I did. A few tweaks here and there and this very well could have been a stronger(er) contender for my top film of the year. I believe that the niche audience for this will not be disappointed and neither will the general public. This director was ale to find a way to please everyone. Maybe he should try his hand at a comic book movie! I highly recommend this, so go see it NOW!!!

5 out of 5 stars


Posted in Classics, Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , on December 29, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Caligula (Malcolm McDowell), the young heir to the throne of the syphilis-ridden, half-mad Emperor Tiberius (Peter O’Toole), thinks he has received a bad omen after a blackbird flies into his room early one morning. Shortly afterward, Macro (Guido Mannari), the head of the Praetorian Guards, appears to tell the young man that his great uncle (Tiberius) demands that he report at once to the Island of Capri, where Tiberius has been residing for a number of years with a close friend Nerva (John Gielgud), a dim-witted relative Claudius (Giancarlo Badessi), and Caligula’s younger stepbrother Gemellus (Bruno Brive) (Tiberius’s favorite). Fearing assassination, Caligula is afraid to leave, but his beloved sister and lover Drusilla (Teresa Ann Savoy) convinces him to go.

At Capri, Caligula finds his great uncle has become depraved, showing signs of advanced venereal diseases, and embittered with Rome and politics. Tiberius enjoys watching degrading sexual shows, often including children and various freaks of nature. Caligula observes with a mixture of fascination and horror. Tensions rise when Tiberius jokingly tries to poison Caligula in front of Gemellus. After Nerva commits suicide on the prospect of Caligula’s rule, Tiberius now dying is at the mercy of being murdered by Caligula but Macro halts Caligula’s action and commits the deed himself by choking Tiberius and thus hastening Caligula’s ascent to the throne.

Late one night, Macro escorts all the spectators out of Tiberius’ bedchamber to allow Caligula the opportunity to murder his great uncle, but when he fails, Macro finishes the deed himself by strangling Tiberius with a scarf. Caligula triumphantly removes the imperial signet from Tiberius’s finger and suddenly realizes that Gemellus has witnessed the murder. Tiberius is buried with honors and Caligula is proclaimed the new Emperor; he in turn proclaims Drusilla his equal, to the apparent disgust of the Senate. Afterwards, Drusilla, fearful of Macro’s influence, convinces Caligula to get rid of him. Caligula obliges by setting up a mock trial in which Gemellus is intimidated into testifying that Macro alone murdered Tiberius. With the powerful Macro gone, Caligula appoints Tiberius’s former adviser Longinus (John Steiner) as his right-hand man, and pronounces the docile Senator Chaerea (Paolo Bonacelli) as the new head of the Praetorian Guard. Drusilla endeavors to find Caligula a wife amongst the priestesses of the goddess Isis, the cult they secretly practice. Caligula only wants to marry Drusilla, but when she insists that they cannot marry because she is his sister, he marries, Caesonia (Helen Mirren), a priestess of the Goddess Isis and a known courtesan, but only after she bears him an heir. At her home, Drusilla had arranged Caligula’s introduction to many of the priestesses of Isis, and while she would have been happier had Caligula chosen someone other than Caesonia, she did not strongly object

Caligula proves to be a popular but eccentric ruler, cutting taxes and overturning all the oppressive laws that Tiberius enacted. The Senate begins to dislike the young emperor for his eccentricities and various insults directed towards them. Darker aspects of his personality begin to emerge as well; he rapes a bride and groom on their wedding day because of a minor fit of jealousy, and orders the execution of Gemellus merely to provoke a reaction from Drusilla.

After he discovers Caesonia is pregnant, Caligula suffers severe fever, but Drusilla nurses him back to health. Just as he fully recovers, Caesonia bears him a daughter, Julia Drusilla, and Caligula marries her on the spot, at first thinking that she had bore him a son. During the celebration, Drusilla collapses in Caligula’s arms from the same fever he’d suffered. Soon afterwards, Caligula receives another ill omen in the guise of a black bird. He rushes to Drusilla’s side, prays to Isis for her recovery, and watches her die, but, initially, cannot accept that she is dead. Caligula has a nervous breakdown; he smashes a statue of Isis and lovingly attends Drusilla’s body, but then fully accepting her death screams hysterically. Now in a deep depression, Caligula walks the Roman streets, disguised as a beggar; Caligula then causes a disturbance after watching an amateur performance mocking his relationship with Drusilla. After a brief stay in a city jail, Caligula proclaims himself a god and becomes determined to destroy the senatorial class, which he has come to loathe. His reign becomes a series of humiliations against the foundations of Rome; senators’ wives are forced to work in the service of the state as prostitutes, estates are confiscated, the old religion is desecrated, and he initiates an absurd war on Britain to humiliate the army; the army never actually fights in Britain, but is ordered to attack stalks of papyrus on the shores. It is obvious to the senators and the military that Caligula must be assassinated, and Longinus conspires with Chaerea to carry out the deed.

Caligula wanders into his bedroom where a nervous Caesonia awaits him. The blackbird makes a final appearance, but only Caesonia is frightened of it. The next morning, after rehearsing an Egyptian play, Caligula and his family are attacked as they leave the stadium in a coup headed by Chaerea. His wife and daughter are brutally murdered and Chaerea himself stabs Caligula in the stomach. With his final breaths, he defiantly whimpers “I live!”

As Caligula and his family’s bodies are thrown down the marble steps and their blood is washed off the marble floor, Claudius is proclaimed the new Emperor.


While I was watching Caligula this evening, I was talking to my friend Kasey and wondering WTF?!? was I watching. I need to let you know that the version Netflix supplied me with was the unrated version, complete with explicit sex scenes, nudity, and graphic imagery, such as that final scene. I am not sure how much of the “real” scenes were edited, though. With all that said, I don’t really know much about Caligula, other than stories about his highly sexualized nature.

What is this about?

The rise and fall of the notorious Roman Emperor Caligula, showing the violent methods that he employs to gain the throne, and the subsequent insanity of his reign – he gives his horse political office and humiliates and executes anyone who even slightly displeases him. He also sleeps with his sister, organises elaborate orgies and embarks on a fruitless invasion of England before meeting an appropriate end.

What did I like?

Two youts. These days, Malcom McDowell and Peter O’Toole seem like that have always been ancient. As it turns out, Malcolm McDowell was actually young, at one time, Peter O’Toole, though, appears to always have been ancient. This film is nearly 35 yrs old, and he was an old fossil back then. Still, it is always nice seeing some of out older actors in their younger days.

Life and times. The factor that we all find appealing about biopics is that it tells us a little bit of a life story of historical figures. Sometimes they are more rooted in accuracy, like The Queen, and others they are based in truth but exaggerate every chance they get, like Amadeus. The film is a mix of both, but I can’t help but thing it swings more towards the latter. Still, it was a nice little bit of history on a guy that most of this stuff isn’t really told in the history books. Come to think of it, I don’t they even mention the guy.

Sets. In college, I always went to plays and musicals that the theater department was performing. That’s what happens when you’re good friends with a couple of theater majors. I noticed that many of these great sets seem to hearken back to those crude sets. I love that they did that, though, I have to wonder why they didn’t just go all out with some expensive sets like Cleopatra did.

What didn’t I like?

Helen. Just like Amanda Bynes’ films have become a sort of birthday tradition for me, it appears as if Helen Mirren has become my end of the year treat. Normally, I’d say she’d be the reason to see this, then I remember how bad Hussy was! Mirren isn’t given much to do, and when she does have some lines, it is almost as if she doesn’t want to be there. The final scene, though, she does show signs of life, but I fear it is too little, too late.

Orgy. WTF?!? As I mentioned before, this is the unrated version of the film, and there are plenty of orgy scenes to go around. Given the fact that this Caligula, I let that slid, but I can’t get over the fact that this was pretty much a porn. I’m not exaggerating, either. There are scenes of masturbation, penetration, bondage, and every other sexual act you can think of. These scenes do no involve the main cast, either (I was highly disappointed to not get a nude Helen Mirren). Don’t even get me started on the fact that they are just, pardon the pun, thrust in there and go on and on and on. I guess that’s what you get when Penthouse is a producer, though.

Follow. I had a hard time following what was really going on in the flick. The first half was fine, but somewhere around the time Caligula goes to the temple of Isis, things get befuddled and the audience, or maybe it was just me, can’t really keep up. Making matters worse is that by that time, we are wondering if we really care.

Caligula didn’t really disappoint me, as I had no real expectations, but I did expect more from Helen Mirren. I’m wondering, though, if I would have a different view of this film had I watched one of the other versions that didn’t have the gratuitous sex scenes. I would love to say that this is a film that you should see, but I can’t. It just isn’t something that I can do so in good conscience.

2 1/3 out of 5 stars

Django Unchained

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Westerns with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 29, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Django (Jamie Foxx) and his wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington) are sold at a slave auction. While Broomhilda is sold to an unknown buyer, Django is bought by the Speck brothers (James Remar and James Russo). When Django and a number of slaves are being transported across the country, the Brothers are confronted by Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), a German bounty hunter who uses his former profession as a dentist as a cover for his bounty hunting activities. Schultz frees Django and kills the Speck brothers. He reveals that he sought out Django because Django can identify the Brittle brothers—Ellis, Big John and Little Raj—a band of ruthless killers with a price on their heads. Schultz and Django come to an agreement: in exchange for helping locate the Brittle brothers, Schultz will free Django from slavery entirely and help him rescue Broomhilda from Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), a plantation owner who is as charming as he is brutal. On his plantation, Candyland, male slaves are trained to fight to the death for sport, while female slaves are forced into prostitution. Django agrees, and the two go after Candie and the Brittle gang. Shultz confesses that his profession of bounty hunting is opportunistic but he also mentions to Django that he “despises slavery”.

After hunting down and killing the Brittle brothers, Schultz takes on Django as his associate in bounty hunting. Django is initially uneasy about his newfound role, but soon proves himself to be a talented bounty hunter. After collecting a number of bounties over the course of the winter, Schultz and Django confirm that Calvin Candie is Broomhilda’s current owner. After scoring an invitation to Candyland, they devise a plan where the two of them pose as potential purchasers of one of Candie’s slave fighters in order to reach Broomhilda. Upon their arrival, Schultz introduces Django as his equal, which causes hostility at Candieland, where racist attitudes are considerably more pronounced than on other plantations. They are shocked to witness Candie execute a slave by having attack dogs tear him apart, but quickly come to an agreement to purchase a fighting slave. Schultz improvises on their plan and also purchases Broomhilda, claiming that as a fortuitous coincidence he noticed that Broomhilda speaks German and felt that she would help alleviate his nostalgia for his mother tongue.

The plan goes awry when Candie’s head slave Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson) realises that Schultz and Django are more interested in Broomhilda than purchasing a fighter. Correctly deducing that Django and Broomhilda are husband and wife, Stephen informs Candie, who, armed with this information, demands $12,000 for Broomhilda or else he will kill her in front of Django. Left with no other choice, they agree, but Candie’s humiliating behaviour enrages Schultz, who kills him after the paperwork finalising the sale is completed. Schultz is shot as Django tries to escape Candyland, slaughtering most of the household before being subdued. As punishment, Stephen arranges for Django to be sent to a coal mine and worked to death. En route to the mine, Django convinces the slave drivers that he is a bounty hunter, showing them the handbill from his first kill as proof of his claims. Once freed, he kills the slave drivers and rides back to Candyland.

Once inside the plantation, Django continues his slaughter of the household, planting dynamite as he goes. He leaves Stephen alive inside the mansion and takes the certificate of freedom that Candie signed for Broomhilda as part of the purchase agreement before his death. Finally free, Django and Broomhilda ride away from Candyland as the dynamite explodes, killing Stephen and wiping Candyland off the map.


This time last year, there were three movies that I was super excited to see. One of them got pushed back to the coming spring, while another went on to be the summer’s and one of the year’s biggest hits, The Avengers. Then we have Django Unchained, Quentin Tarantino’s ultra violet, controversial, spaghetti western. A flick that I’ve been looking forward to since I found out what it was about.

What is this about?

Former dentist, Dr. King Schultz, buys the freedom of a slave, Django, and trains him with the intent to make him his deputy bounty hunter. Instead, he is led to the site of Django’s wife who is under the hands of Calvin Candie, a sadistic plantation owner.

What did I like?

No fear. Earlier this year, when Red Tails came out, the African-American community all but crucified George Lucas for basically making a film about how they were treated when he wasn’t of the same race. The same kind of thing is going on here with Tarantino and his handling of slavery and people’s attitudes during the time, but I’ll get to that a little later. Personally, I don’t care what color the filmmaker is, as long as he makes a good film. Tarantino is one of the few in Hollywood with the balls to try this.

Leo. I remember when he was nothing more than a recurring guest star on Growing Pains. Now, Leonardo DiCaprio is a bona fide movie star, arguably one of the biggest names in Hollywood. He turns in a great performance as Calvin Candide, the sadistic plantation owner. Not only is his performance over-the-top, in terms of southern charm, but the intensity he brings to the table (figuratively and literally) is something that we haven’t really seen from him before. A critic I was reading the other day said that this is the performance of his career and that this could possibly get him that Oscar nod, if not for the controversy this film is steeped in.

Story. Quentin Tarantino has never been known as someone who can’t tell a great story. Look at his other films, if you question his story telling. You can argue the point that this may very well be his best work, in terms of storytelling, and many would agree with you. I’m not sure where I stand on that, but it definitely is up there. He really knows how to mix comedy and the more serious tones that were taken in parts. The yin and yang, if you will, make for an entertaining time.

Jackson Waltz. Christoph Waltz is one of the actors who has really gained fame here in the last few years, along with the likes of Tom Hardy, Michael Fassbender and, to a lesser extent, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. As we saw in The Green Hornet, he does have some comedic chops to go with his immense acting talent. While Jamie Foxx’s character is a man of few words, Waltz takes lead and carries the film, until the time when Foxx grows some balls and gets excited about “getting paid for killing white folks”. Samuel L. Jackson (how can this be a Tarantino film without him?) gets to really flex his more comedic chops as the head house slave. I really think they didn’t even write some of these lines and he just ad-libbed most of his lines.

Bloody. Let me be perfectly clear on this. If you cannot stomach seeing people get their heads blown off and copious amounts of blood, then there really is no reason for you to be watching. I’m not one for blood and gore, but when it is over the top as it is here, I’m all for it, plus this is a western, so I was loving it from the get go. I know some people are going to say that the gushing blood was too much or that it was unrealistic, but for me, it was perfect! There are plenty of other “real” things going on in this film.

What didn’t I like?

Length. Every one of Tarantino’s films has been way too long for its own good and this is no exception. Someone needs to get ahold of that man and shake him until he stops dragging these things out so. There was no need for this to be nearly 3 hours long when he could have very well just cut out a good 30-45 minutes worth of useless filler.

Big Daddy. Don Johnson was a great southern plantation owner, not as good as DiCaprio, though, but I have to wonder why this career comeback he’s on has him playing these racist characters. First, he was all about killing Mexicans in Machete, and now he’s all about owning slaves.

Music. Tarantino is known for not using original music for his films, which is fine. It actually sets him apart, but there is a scene here where they are riding through the countryside, but they play some kind of rap song. I’m not a big rap fan in the first place, but this really seemed like it was out of place, even more so in a western. If he wanted to use that song, then the credits would have been the place to use it.

N word. The elephant in the room is the frequent use on the N-word. Tarantino is known for using it in every one of his films, but for some reason he tries to pull a Randall from Clerks 2 and apparently take it back, since he uses it some 200 or so times. There have been some critics tearing the use of the word. Spike Lee, he of such upstanding racial views, has said he is boycotting because it offends his ancestors. While I don’t particularly care for using it so many times, this is a movie about slavery, so you can’t expect it to be used a few times. Also, if two prominent African-American actors don’t have any issues with it, then why is everyone making such a big deal about it? The N word is one of those that stirs up lots of emotions and Tarantino should have known better than to use it so much.

Django Unchained has been one of the films here at the end of the year that has become a critics’ darling, along with Les Miserables. I totally enjoyed the hell out of this film, with its mix of action, comedy, suspense, drama, and a slight love story. I would love to recommend this to everyone, but I can’t. This just isn’t the flick for everyone, as it has a few elements that are sure to offend. For those of you that aren’t easily offended, though, I highly recommend it. As a matter of fact, why aren;t you rushing out to see it right now?!?

5 out of 5 stars

What Women Want

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

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Nick Marshall, a Chicago advertising executive and alpha male, who grew up with his Las Vegas showgirl mother, is a chauvinist. He is skilled at selling to men and seducing women, including local coffee attendant Lola. However, just as he thinks he’s headed for a promotion, his manager, Dan, informs him that he is hiring the talents of Darcy McGuire instead, to broaden the firm’s appeal to women.

Also, his estranged 15-year-old daughter Alex is spending two weeks with him while his ex-wife Gigi goes on her honeymoon with her new husband. Alex is embarrassed by Nick, and resents his being protective when he meets her boyfriend.

Needing to prove himself to Darcy and Dan, Nick attempts to think of copy for a series of feminine products that Darcy distributed at the day’s staff meeting. However he slips and falls into his bathtub while holding an electric hairdryer, shocking himself. The next day, Nick wakes up able to understand his maid’s thoughts as she cleans his apartment. As he walks through a park and encounters numerous women, he realizes that he can hear their thoughts, even those of a female poodle. This proves to be an epiphany for him when he hears the thoughts of his female co-workers (some of whom have slept with him and regretted it). When he goes to a previous therapist, Dr. Perkins (who also disliked him), she realizes his gift: “If Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, and you can speak Venutian, the world can be yours.”

Nick eavesdrops on women’s thoughts and uses their ideas as his own, but also begins to develop real friendships with his co-workers. But as he spends more time with Darcy, he is attracted to her. However when he tries to get closer to his daughter, she resents him for trying after so many years of neglect. Nick shrewdly suspects that her boyfriend, who is considerably older than Alex, plans to sleep with her and then dump her, but she does not want Nick’s advice.

Nick and Darcy begin to spend more time together, and ultimately they kiss. When he manages to trump Darcy out of her idea for a new Nike ad campaign aimed at women, he later regrets his selfishness, especially as it leads to her being fired.

Nick loses his gift during a storm while trying to find a company secretary, Erin, who (as his telepathic ability has shown him) is contemplating suicide. He is also reconciled with his daughter when her boyfriend rejects her. Nick finally visits Darcy and explains everything. She regains her job and Nick gets fired. But she forgives him, and agrees to save him from himself, to which he responds “My hero”.


A question that has and will always plague us men is surely something we could get the answer to in a film entitled What Women Want, right? Not so fast! This is a film produced and directed by women, so you can imagine the point of view, right? Not so fast on that account, either!

What is this about?

Nick, a somewhat chauvinistic advertising exec hot shot, has his life turned haywire when a fluke accident enables him to hear what women think. At first all he wants to do is rid himself of this curse, until a wacky psychologist shows him that this could be used to his advantage! His first target is Darcy McGuire, the very woman who got the promotion he wanted. But just as his plan is beginning to work, love gets in the way…

What did I like?

Mel. First of all, this is way before he lost his mind and become anti-semitic shell of a man that he is now. With that out of the way, I have to say that he was really good. He brought a mix of machismo, comic timing, and a pinch of dramatic acting to the table and is one of the reasons this is such an enjoyable flick.

Women’s thoughts. The things these women think of throughout the course of the film, be it something as inane as Mel Gibson’s “sweet cheeks”, or their own body insecurities, or even the ramblings on about how they might kill themselves, it is interesting, as a guy, to hear these things. Now, if only someone would find a way to do this for real!

Lounge. I love, love, LOVE the soundtrack, or at least the musical cues that this film has. Using the vocal stylings of the likes of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Bobby Darin was a great choice. Each of these songs fits the tone of their respective scenes perfectly. Fret not jazz haters, there is also a little Meredith Brook and Christina Aguilera, among a few others thrown in there to keep you happy, as well.

What didn’t I like?

Cause. It seems that Gibson’s ability to hear women’s thoughts is related to his accident with the hair dryer in the bathtub. That happens in a scene that just can’t be put into words. Needless to say he’s wearing pantyhose, nail polish and doing other feminine things as research. Anyway, as the film nears its end, he ends up losing these powers as this old Asian lady leads him down an alley and power lines rain sparks down on him. It is assumed that electricity and this woman have something to do with it but I can’t help but be curious as to what it is that really caused this phenomena.

Hunt. Helen Hunt is one of those actresses that I have a crush on in one thing I see her in and then loathe her in another. This time around she seems to be showing signs of aging, which isn’t necessarily a turnoff, but it does make me wonder if that was because they wanted her to look a bit older or if she missed a Botox appointment. Either way, it is her acting that gets my goat. She is playing a character that is meant to be a bit of a hard ass hellcat executive, but with a softer side as needed. The problem is that she comes off as wooden throughout the whole film. There is a little emotion shown after she gets fired, but even that isn’t really convincing. I just felt as if she could have given more.

Dumb and dumber. I love Gibson’s two assistant (I’m not really sure what they are), played by Delta Burke and…her name slips me at the moment. Unfortunately, we don’t get much of them. A few quick glances, a couple of one-liners, a crack about their empty heads (he can’t hear anything they’re “thinking”), and that’s it. Seems to me that characters like this should be given a bit more screentime. I’m hoping that it just ended up on the cutting room floor, rather than being written like this.

Alright guys, I cannot tell you What Women Want. As we see from this flick, not even they know what they want, no matter the age or station in life. What I can tell you is that this is a nice little romantic comedy worth seeing, if for nothing else than just a cute little story. Men will love seeing a guy go through all this stuff, while women will fall all over Gibson being shirtless for a good portion of the film. I highly recommend this!

4 out of 5 stars


Art School Confidential

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Independent, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 26, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Starting from childhood attempts at illustration, young Jerome pursues his true obsession to art school. Jerome enrolls in Strathmore, an urban college. His roommates include aspiring filmmaker Vince and closeted-gay fashion major Matthew. Jerome looks for love amongst the coeds, but is turned off by them all, before falling in love with the art model, Audrey. In his art classes, he forms a friendship with perennial loser, Bardo, who guides him through the college scene and introduces him to a failed artist, Jimmy, a belligerent drunk.

As Jerome learns how the art world really works, he finds that he must adapt his vision to the reality that confronts him. The community has been wracked by a serial killer, the Strathmore Strangler, who has confounded the police. As Jerome slowly loses his idealism at art school, he finds himself In competition with a strange newcomer, Jonah (an undercover detective), both for Audrey’s affection and for artistic recognition.

In a wild attempt to win a prestigious art competition, Jerome asks for, and gets, Jimmy’s paintings, all of which are of the Strangler’s victims. Jerome leaves a lit cigarette in Jimmy’s apartment by accident, setting a fire and burning up the apartment and Jimmy. The police arrest Jerome as the Strangler (who in fact was Jimmy); Audrey realizes that her true love is Jerome and that she was stupid to be in love with Jonah (who is actually married); and Jerome is sent to prison. Jerome’s paintings, especially one of Audrey, become prized by collectors; Vince scores a huge hit with his documentary of the Strangler called My Roommate: The Murderer. In prison, Jerome continues to paint and sells his works at high prices, not caring that people think he is the killer, while all the while Audrey is still in love with him. At the end, Audrey and Jerome share a kiss through the protective glass.


Art School Confidential was suggested to me by a friend from junior high who, strangely enough, is an art teacher now. I actually had no intention on rushing to see it, but would get to it at some point in time, but that plan was scrapped by Netflix rushing to take it off instant streaming (and me not wanting to waste an actual DVD slot for it) in the next few days. The real question, though, is, was this worth seeing?

What is this about?

Jerome, a kid from the suburbs who loves to draw, goes to New York City’s Strathmore College for his freshman year as a drawing major. Competition and petty jealousy consume faculty and students, with an end-of-first-semester best-student award held out as a grand plum. Worse, a strangler is on the loose, killing people on or next to campus. The idealistic Jerome falls in love with Audrey, a student who models for life-drawing classes and who responds to his sweetness. But he has a rival: the clean-cut, manly Jonah, also a first-year drawing student, whose primitive work draws raves and Audrey’s attention. As cynicism seems to corrode everything, Jerome is desperate to win.

What did I like?

Supporting cast. The true shining stars of this film are the supporting cast, with the likes of Anjelica Huston, Jim Broadbent, Ethan Suplee, and in slightly larger roles, John Malkovich and Joel David Moore (is it me, or does it seem like he pops up in just about everything?). Each one makes the two actual leads seem like total amateurs.

Nude models. You know how in some films and/or TV shows we’ll see someone modeling nude and it seems gratuitous? Well, in a film that is based in an art school, you can’t exactly do that. The nude models here are about as generic as they come and don’t really try to do anything more than just sit there and do their nude thing. When they’re done, they don’t go around trying to have sex with all of the students, they just put their robe back on and leave. I’ve never been in an art class, but I would imagine this is how they actually act, though I imagine one or two wish they could have a giant orgy with the class, honestly.

What didn’t I like?

Yawn. As far as independent film go, one can expect there to be a certain level of, shall we say, not-so-interesting-ness, but there is usually something there that piques you interest enough to at least stave off boredom. Sadly, this is not the case with this film. It seems that, save for the scenes with the aforementioned supporting  cast taking center stage, the film gets worse as it goes on.

Lead. Drumline has a line in it that says, “You have to learn to follow before you can lead.” Someone should have really told Max Minghella that before he took this role. The guy just does not have the chops and charisma to carry a film. You may ask who this guy is, and that is because he hasn’t really been in anything since, at least in leading man capacity.

Killer. This whole subplot about the serial killer strangler that is going around campus might have actually helped the film be a bit more interesting if they would have made it a bit more central to the film, as opposed to an afterthought that is suddenly pushed to the forefront in the film’s final act. Granted, that might have pushed this more into the horror/suspense/thriller category, as opposed to dramedy, but at least there would have been something going on that was interesting.

Art School Confidential is an independent film from the same guy who brought us Ghost World. Where that was actually a somewhat entertaining and arguably memorable film, this one leaves the audience with nothing to talk about after the credits roll, except for how utterly forgettable it is. No, I do not recommend this, unless you’re looking for a cure to your insomnia, or need something playing in the background while you study or work on some big project for work.

2 out of 5 stars


Posted in Drama, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on December 26, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Ren McCormack (Bacon), a teenager raised in Chicago, moves with his mother to the small town of Bomont to live with his aunt and uncle. Soon after arriving, Ren makes a friend named Willard, and from him learns the city council has banned dancing and rock music. He soon begins to fall for a rebellious girl named Ariel, who has a boyfriend, Chuck Cranston, and an overprotective father, Reverend Shaw Moore (Lithgow), an authority figure in the town.

After trading insults with Ariel’s boyfriend, Ren is challenged to a game of chicken involving tractors, and despite having never driven one before, he wins. Rev. Moore mistrusts Ren, forbidding Ariel to see him. Ren and his classmates want to do away with the no dancing law and have a senior prom.

Ren goes before the city council and reads several Bible verses to cite scriptural support for the worth of dancing to rejoice, exercise, or celebrate. Although Rev. Moore is moved and tries to get them to abolish the law, the council votes against him. Moore’s wife is supportive of the movement, and explains to Moore he cannot be everyone’s father, and that he is hardly being a father to Ariel. She also says that dancing and music are not the problem. Moore soon has a change of heart after seeing some of the townsfolk burning books that they think are dangerous to the youth. Realizing the situation has gotten out of hand, Moore stops the burning.

On Sunday, Rev. Moore asks his congregation to pray for the high school students putting on the prom, which is set up at a grain mill outside of town. Moore and his wife are seen outside, dancing for the first time in years.


One cannot help but get up and start doing the infamous dance that is associated with the title song and some may even go so far as to say that it is the reason Footloose is such a big hit. I have long been curious about this flick and this evening said curiosity has been satiated.

What is this about?

Kevin Bacon plays Ren McCormack, a decidedly urban teen who’s transplanted to a small Midwestern town where dancing is outlawed. Recruiting his best pal, the quiet Willard (Chris Penn), and his girlfriend (Lori Singer), a clergyman’s daughter, Ren starts a revolution by moving to the beat.

What did I like?

Soundtrack. Aside from the title track, this film has a soundtrack that consisted of many tunes that were or would go on to become huge hits in the 80s, such as Deniece Williams’ “Let’s Hear It for the Boy”,  Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out for a Hero”,  Mike Reno and Ann Wilson’s “Almost Paradise”, amongst others. As a child of the 80s, hearing these songs always brings back memories, but hearing them in a film made and based in the time when they were actually released was a true treat.

Zealot. John Lithgow, in his days before 3rd Rock from the Sun, was quite the serious, accomplished actor and could really pull off the villanous type roles at the drop of a hat. It should come as no surprise that he gives a masterful performance as the kind of religious nut preacher that wields the kind of power which allowed him to get a law passed that outlawed dancing! The only thing missing was the stereotypical southern accent that evil preachers seem to have.

Bacon. This may very well be the role that brought Kevin Bacon to the attention of moviegoers everywhere and launched his career into superstardom. With good reason, too, as he is the perfect mix of  as one critic put it, “cocky and likeable”.

What didn’t I like?

Law. How in tarnation does a law pass that bans dancing? If you look up strange laws, you’ll find some weird ones, like a town that doesn’t allow you to eat chicken after 6 pm on the third Tuesday of each month. This law, which is more or less the major plot device for the whole film, doesn’t seem to make sense, or at least the fact that Lithgow brainwashed the town into getting it passed and no one has bothered to challenge him on it until Bacon comes to town, doesn’t.

Rebel. So, the preacher’s daughter is rebellious. Who’s really surprised by this, really? Heaven forbid we come across a preacher’s daughter who isn’t some sort of rebel and/or nymphomaniac, as opposed to the doting, holier than thought, perfect little angel that their father would like them to be. I wasn’t really a fan of this character and, truth be told, she didn’t really inspire me to have any feeling for her. Instead she just seemed like the kind of random hot chick that is the object of affection for the main character and, guess what, she is.

Book burning. Maybe I missed something, but the whole book burning thing that occurs near the end seemed to serve no purpose, and yet they kept trying to push this issue of bad books. Personally, I didn’t get it, but like I said, maybe I missed something.

Footloose stands as a great mixture of film and music without actually being a musical, thought it did make it to the Broadway stage as one. Also, it was sadly remade last year, and while the critics were all for it, audiences weren’t exactly jumping for joy to go see it. Needless to say, I won’t be rushing to watch it, either, but I’m no fan of remakes, so that’s no surprise. Stay away from that one and watch the original. You can never go wrong with the real deal!

4 out of 5 stars

The Sound of Music

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Maria (Julie Andrews) is found in a pasture, exulting in the musical inspiration she finds there (“The Sound of Music”). Maria is a postulant in Nonnberg Abbey, where she is constantly getting into mischief and is the nuns’ despair (“Maria”).

Maria’s life suddenly changes when a widowed Austrian Navy Captain, Georg von Trapp (Christopher Plummer) writes to the abbey asking for a governess for his seven children. Mother Abbess asks Maria to take the position on a probationary basis; previous governesses, though, have not lasted long. She is worried about what awaits her at the von Trapp household, but is determined to succeed (“I Have Confidence”).

Maria, upon arrival at the von Trapp estate, finds that the Captain keeps it in strict shipshape order, blows a whistle, issues orders, and dresses his children in sailor-suit uniforms. While they are initially hostile to her, they warm to her when she comforts them during a thunderstorm (“My Favorite Things”). Liesl (Charmian Carr), the oldest, who is “Sixteen Going on Seventeen”, sneaks into Maria’s window after a secret meeting with a messenger boy, Rolfe (Daniel Truhitte). At first she is adamant that she “doesn’t need a governess”, but Maria offers to be her friend, and she acquiesces. Maria teaches them how to sing (“Do-Re-Mi”) and to play, sewing playclothes for them from discarded drapes in her room.

The Captain entertains a visit from a lady friend, Baroness Elsa Schroeder (Eleanor Parker), a wealthy socialite from Vienna, along with mutual friend Max Detweiler (Richard Haydn), who is intent on finding an obscure musical act to launch at the upcoming Salzburg Music Festival. The Captain becomes aware that Maria has been taking the children on picnics and bicycle rides, climbed trees with them, and taken them in a boat on the lake adjoining his estate. When the boat capsizes, Maria and all of the children (wearing their clothes made from the former curtains) fall into the water. The Captain turns his wrath on her and Maria begs him to pay attention to the children and love them, but he orders her to return to the abbey.

When he discovers the children performing a reprise of “The Sound of Music” for the Baroness, he changes his mind. Maria has brought music back into his home, and he begs her to stay. Things get better at the household. She and the children perform a puppet show (“The Lonely Goatherd”) that Max gave to them. He announces that he has entered the children in the Salzburg Festival; the Captain, however, forbids their participation. Maria and the children insist that he sing a song, knowing that he used to play and sing with a guitar, and he agrees (“Edelweiss”).

At a soiree thrown in Baroness Schroeder’s honor, eleven-year-old Kurt (Duane Chase) observes guests dancing the Laendler, and asks Maria to teach him the steps. The Captain cuts in and partners her in a graceful performance, culminating in a close clinch. At that moment, she breaks off and blushes. The children perform “So Long, Farewell” to say goodnight to the guests, receiving enthusiastic applause. The Baroness, jealous of Maria, convinces her to return to Nonnberg.

Maria leaves the estate and returns to the abbey, where she keeps herself in seclusion until Mother Abbess gently confronts her, urging her to “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” in search of God’s will for her. At this command, she returns to the von Trapp family, finding that the Captain is now engaged to the Baroness. However, he breaks off the engagement, realizing that he is in love with Maria. He meets Maria in his gazebo and they declare their love for each other. The Captain and Maria share a kiss for romance (“Something Good”). The two wed in an elaborate ceremony at the Salzburg Cathedral, with many of Austria’s elite, as well as the nuns from Nonnberg Abbey, in attendance.

While the new couple is away on their honeymoon in Paris, Max grooms the children to perform in the Salzburg Music Festival, against the Captain’s wishes. At the same time, Austria is annexed into the Third Reich in the Anschluss (actual date was March 12, 1938). When the Captain returns, he is informed that he must report as soon as possible to the Nazi Naval Headquarters in Bremerhaven, to accept a commission in the German Navy. He is opposed to Nazism, and stalls by insisting he must perform with his family that night in the Salzburg Festival, now politicized and showcased as a Nazi event under the patronage of Hans Zeller (Ben Wright), recently appointed as the Nazi Gauleiter. Zeller agrees, but orders the Captain to depart immediately after the performance. The choreography of the final song, “So Long, Farewell”, allows the family to leave slowly, a few at a time, and as the winners are announced, they flee. At first they hide in the abbey, but are discovered by Rolfe (who had joined the Nazi party), who threatens to shoot the Captain despite being visibly scared of having to do so. The Captain unsuccessfully attempts to persuade Rolfe to join them; he calls for his lieutenant instead, and the von Trapps flee again. The Nazis are unable to pursue them, as the nuns have removed the spark plug wires and ignition coils from their cars. The final shot shows the von Trapps climbing over the Alps into Switzerland, as “Climb Ev’ry Mountain”, reprised by a choir, swells to a conclusion.


It has been brought to my attention recently that there are some truly immortal classic films that I have yet to review, one of which is The Sound of Music. As far as holiday traditions go, this must be one of them as it seems to be on every Easter (when they’re not showing The Ten Commandments) and Christmas. Some would say that a true classic like this deserves to be on even more!

What is this about?

In Rodgers and Hammerstein’s greatest collaboration, a feisty postulant named Maria (Julie Andrews) is sent to care for the unruly, motherless Von Trapp children. She soon tames them — and finds herself falling for their stern father (Christopher Plummer).

What did I like?

Scenery. The film opens with the very definition of sweeping cinematography as we zoom in on Maria singing in the hills and mountains overlooking Salzburg. Captain von Trapp’s estate is apparently on some kind of lake/river and is just gorgeous beyond words. The abbey isn’t too shabby, either, as far as abbeys go. Whoever it was that scouted location for this flick really knew what they were doing.

Light. Musicals, in my opinion, should not be heavy dramas, but rather lighthearted musical romps. The subject matter her is kind of heavy, if you think about it. Teen love, older man who is love with another woman while his new employee who is quite a few years younger than him is falling in love with him, Nazis…this is the kind of stuff that makes for good drama. Luckily for us, it never gets to that point and they keep things light and fun, with an occasional dip here and there into the melancholy.

Cast. Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer…enough said.

Music. The greatness of Rodgers & Hammerstein cannot be questioned, and this may be some of their most popular, if not their best work. Nearly every song is memorable and the songs feel natural as opposed to random bursts of song (a ploy that works only in certain works). I dare you to watch this and not come away singing “Do-Re-Mi”, “My Favorite Things”, “The Lonely Goatherd”, or one of the other songs that make this truly great.

What didn’t I like?

Children. Something that I never noticed before tonight was how that the children are basically extras who may get a line or two, except for Liesel, who has her own song and dance routine with the delivery boy. You can also make a case for Greta, since she is the cute one who ends “Edelweiss” and is the first to run into Maria’s room during the thunderstorm, but that’s a bit of a stretch. I felt as if more could be done with the children, especially when they go to the abbey looking for Maria. That would have been the perfect time to allow them to grow.

Wedding. The ceremony was beautiful, but where did all those people come from? That was like a royal wedding! Captain von Trapp was a big to do military officer and all, but as far as I can tell, Maria was just another young girl who has run away to the abbey. I suspect that her parents were in attendance and maybe a few friends and other family, but hardly enough to fill a church the size of a small town. This is a minor complaint, more of a nitpick, really, but it has always bothered me.

The Sound of Music was quite a few awards when it was released, is currently ranked on a few of AFI’s top lists, and has forged quite the legacy for itself. If you are one of the handful of people who hasn’t seen this, what is wrong with you? This is a must-see film for the whole family. To date, I have only met one person who doesn’t like it. As for me, I love it!

5 out of 5 stars


Posted in Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 23, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

During a secret live fire exercise of a nuclear attack, many United States Air Force Strategic Missile Wing missileers prove unwilling to turn a required key to launch a missile strike. Such refusals convince Dr. John McKittrick (Dabney Coleman) and other systems engineers at NORAD that command of missile silos must be maintained through automation, without human intervention. Control is given to a NORAD supercomputer, WOPR (War Operation Plan Response), programmed to continuously run military simulations and learn over time.

David Lightman (Matthew Broderick) is a bright but unmotivated Seattle high school student and hacker. After receiving a failing grade in school, he uses his IMSAI 8080 microcomputer to hack into the district’s computer system. He then changes his grade and does the same for his friend and classmate Jennifer Mack (Ally Sheedy). Later, while dialing every number in Sunnyvale, California to find a set of forthcoming computer games, a computer that does not identify itself intrigues Lightman. On the computer he finds a list of games, starting with general strategy games like chess, checkers, backgammon, and poker and then progressing to titles like “Theaterwide Biotoxic and Chemical Warfare” and “Global Thermonuclear War”, but cannot proceed further. Two of his hacker friends explain the concept of a backdoor password and suggest tracking down the Falken referenced in “Falken’s Maze”, the first game listed. Lightman discovers that Stephen Falken is an early artificial intelligence researcher, and guesses correctly that his dead son’s name “Joshua” is the backdoor password.

Lightman does not know that the Sunnyvale phone number connects to WOPR, or “Joshua”, at Cheyenne Mountain. He starts a game of Global Thermonuclear War, playing as the Soviet Union. The computer starts a simulation that briefly convinces the military personnel at NORAD that actual Soviet nuclear missiles are inbound. While they defuse the situation, Joshua nonetheless continues the simulation to trigger the scenario and win the game. It continuously feeds false data such as Soviet bomber incursions and submarine deployments to the humans at NORAD, pushing them into raising the DEFCON level and toward a retaliation that will start World War III. Lightman learns the true nature of his actions from a news broadcast, and the FBI arrests him and takes him to NORAD. He realizes that Joshua is behind the NORAD alerts but fails to convince McKittrick and faces imprisonment. Lightman escapes NORAD by joining a tourist group and, with Mack’s help, travels to the Oregon island where the widowed Falken (John Wood) now lives under a new identity. Lightman and Mack find that Falken has become despondent and believes the world is on an inevitable path to nuclear holocaust. The teenagers convince Falken that he should return to NORAD to stop Joshua.

The computer stages a massive Soviet first strike with hundreds of missiles, submarines, and bombers. Believing the attack to be genuine, NORAD prepares to retaliate. Falken, Lightman, and Mack convince military officials to cancel the second strike and ride out the non-existent attack. Joshua starts an attempt to launch a second strike, however, using a brute force attack to obtain the launch code for the U.S. nuclear missiles. Without humans in the silos as a safeguard, the computer will trigger a mass launch. All attempts to log in and order Joshua to cancel the countdown fail, and all weapons will launch if the computer is disabled. Instead, Falken and Lightman direct the computer to play tic-tac-toe against itself. This results in a long string of draws, forcing the computer to learn the concept of futility. Joshua obtains the missile code but before launching, it cycles through all the nuclear war scenarios it has devised, finding they too all result in stalemates. The computer concludes that nuclear warfare is “a strange game”; having discovered the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction (“WINNER: NONE”), therefore “the only winning move is not to play.” Joshua then offers to play “a nice game of chess”, and relinquishes control of NORAD and the missiles.


WarGames is a film that wasn’t on my radar at all until this week when my good friend, Alyse, recommended it. I remember hearing a few things about it back in the day, but don’t really recall actually seeing it. I am for certain that I didn’t see it in theaters. That is not always a bad thing, though.

What is this about?

After unwittingly hacking into a supercomputer at North American Aerospace Defense Command, David moves his piece in a seemingly innocent video game — and tells the computer to start preparing a real nuclear strike.

What did I like?

Tech. Here it is the year 2012, and believe it or not, the same kind of thing could easily happen now as in 1983. Obviously, it would be different circumstances, probably a virus of some sort, as opposed to someone hacking into the system and trying to get a jump on some games. Always good to know that some things never change. I still say that a computer that more or less has the power to destroy the world at the stroke of a key, or worse is a wee bit too powerful for my liking. Can we say Skynet?

Ageless wonder. Has anyone else noticed that Matthew Broderick doesn’t look much different now than he did when this film was made, except for some growing up into a man, obviously. With his youthful look, there is an abundant amount of talent that was on display at this very young age, and yet this wasn’t his breakout role. I think we can all agree he became a household name following the release of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Joshua. 80s technology notwithstanding, the computer talks like Stephen Hawking (or is it the other way around?) What gets me is that it seems to have a similar train of “thought” as HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Both computers have their program and must follow their instruction until the task is completed, this resulting in crisis for humans

What didn’t I like?

Backdoor. Can it really be that easy to break into the computers that control the nuclear missiles? More importantly, can it be that easy to go in and change your grades? If so, maybe I should try to change some of my lower marks. Seriously though, it does strike me as odd that there are numerous firewalls, fail safes, and rotating, changing passwords to keep from the system being broken into, even by accident, but I guess I would be wrong.

Room. Those of you that watched Saved By the Bell on Saturday mornings may remember how awesome Screech and especially Zack’s room looked (who wouldn’t want a life size poster of Kelly?), what with all those gadgets and whatnot. David’s room is loaded with all kinds of computer stuff. At that age, I seem to remember my computer being in the den, since there was only one computer in the house.

Elegance in its simplicity. A supercomputer of sorts is easily defeated by a simple game. This reminds me of the aliens in War of the Worlds, who are taken down by human germs. Why is it that things that are so complex so easily defeated. Does that make any sense? Since it took a hacked password to get into it, doesn’t it add up that some hacking skills are necessary to defeat it, for lack of a better term?

WarGames is one of those pictures that won critical acclaim when it was released and also resonated with audiences. With very few flaws, a great cast, and an even better story to tell, this is the kind of film that is must-see before you die. I highly recommend it to any and everyone!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Black Death

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Thrillers/Mystery with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 22, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The story takes place in 1348 in plague-ridden medieval England. Osmund (Eddie Redmayne), a young monk, has unbeknownst to his brothers fallen in love with Averill (Kimberley Nixon), a young girl who took sanctuary in the monastery. After the plague befalls his monastery, he believes it is no longer safe and sends her home to the forest. She asks him to join her, but he declines on account of his vows, after which she tells him she will wait for him at the edge of the forest by a marker for one week. Soon after, Osmund prays that God will give him a sign, as he wishes to leave to join her. As he is doing so, a group of soldiers enters the Church looking for a guide to a village not far from where Osmund’s love Averill was to wait for him. Osmund takes this as a sign and volunteers to lead the knight Ulric (Sean Bean) and a group of soldiers to a remote marshland village which has remained untouched by the Black Death. Their quest is to hunt down a necromancer, who is rumoured to be able to bring the dead back to life. Ulric’s group consists of the experienced leader Wolfstan (John Lynch), Wolfstan’s longtime friend Griff (Jamie Ballard), torturer Dalywag (Andy Nyman), the fearless Mold (Johnny Harris), the mute Ivo (Tygo Gernandt), and the charismatic Swire (Emun Elliott).

The journey is beset with harrowing pitfalls, as Griff is killed by Wolfstan after revealing he has been stricken with the plague and Ivo is slain in a battle with bandits. Upon reaching the marshes, Osmund only finds bloodied clothing and believes Averill to be dead. Ulric’s envoy finds the village, an eerie utopia led by Hob (Tim McInnerny) and Langiva (Carice van Houten). Not knowing who is the necromancer, Ulric tells the townsfolk he and his soldiers are simply seeking a place to rest. Seeing the church falling into disrepair from lack of use, Ulric is suspicious, but nonetheless accepts an invitation for him and his soldiers to come to dinner. Before dinner, Langiva shows Osmund Averill’s body and tells him the villagers found it in the forest. Averill is pale with a wound to her head and appears to have died several days ago. During the dinner, Osmund is lured away by Langiva into the marshes, where he sees her perform a pagan ritual and Averill is brought back to life. Back at the dinner, Ulric and his men begin fading into sleep as they realize their drinks have been drugged.

Ulric’s band and Osmund awake bound and caged in a water-filled pit. Langiva and Hob offer freedom for those who renounce God. None do so and all boldly vie for who will be executed first. Dalywag is led out to an X-shaped cross and crucified, then disemboweled by Hob. Upon seeing this, Swire offers to renounce God and verbally does so at Hob’s prompting, after which he is taken away, hooded with a bag and hanged. Langiva then frees Osmund and directs him to the hut where the resurrected Averill resides. Inside, Osmund sees his beloved Averill incoherent and stumbling, apparently mentally traumatized. Seeing what has become of her as an abomination, Osmund tearfully apologises to her and tells her he will see her again in Purgatory. He then stabs her and watches her die. Osmund then returns to the cage and lays down the body of Averill. He attacks Langiva by slicing her across her cheek but is struck down and subdued.

Reinvigorated, Ulric goads and jeers her that not one of his men will turn from God. In anger, Langiva has Ulric tied between two horses to be dismembered unless he renounces God. As the horses strain his limbs, Ulric reveals that he is sick with the disease, and thus will deliver the plague to these villagers. In the commotion, Langiva does not notice that the knife Osmund slashed her with had landed near the cage when he was struck down. Riveted by the spectacle of Ulric finally being torn into pieces, the villagers are caught unaware as Wolfstan and Mold cut their ropes, escape the cage, and mercilessly cut down all the villagers in revenge for the brutal murder of Ulric and their comrades. During the fight, Mold is killed by Hob, who is subsequently incapacitated by Wolfstan and placed in the device intended for transporting the necromancer.

Osmund notices Langiva retreating to the swamp, so he grabs a short sword and follows her into the fog of the marsh. There, she claims to Osmund in an omnipresent voice that Averill had not been dead, but that the villagers had found her and Langiva had drugged her to appear dead, then put on the pagan ritual to “raise” her from the dead to convince Osmund of her power. She reveals that she uses this illusion to retain leadership of the village. Osmund returns to the village and Langiva skulks away into the marshes, leaving the viewer unsure whether Langiva was a witch and if her last speech to Osmund was another attempt to make him forsake God. Osmund is then brought home to the monastery by Wolfstan, with Hob to be delivered to the Bishop.

In the aftermath, what was left of the villagers are ravaged by the plague; the “witch” had not protected the village, rather, the plague had not yet reached the village due to its remoteness. Wolfstan notes there have been rumors that Osmund became a soldier for God and set about hunting down, torturing, and burning women accused of being witches, in a quest to bring Langiva to justice and assuage his guilt. It is not known whether he ever found the true Langiva again or whether he simply sees Langiva in the faces of the women he executes.


So, Black Knight wasn’t the medieval tour de force I had hoped it would be, and I’ve been hearing about it nonstop since the film ended. This brings us to Black Death, an upgrade, for certain.

What is this about?

Sean Bean stars in this historically rooted horror-thriller as Ulric, a church-appointed knight in the age of the Bubonic Plague’s first wave who’s tasked with investigating rumors of a woman (Carice van Houten) who can bring the dead back to life. A young monk (Eddie Redmayne) named Osmund is aiding Ulric on his quest to root out the necromancer — and to determine whether or not she has ties to Satan.

What did I like?

Medieval times. Something that I’ve noticed about most of the films set in the Middle Ages is that they don’t really capture the dark times of this era. This film manages to pull that off with fantastic results.  You can really feel that the people are living in uncertain times where they fear for their lives daily.

Love story. A nice subplot of this film is the subplot that involves the young monk who is the star and his beloved. As well are mostly all aware, monks aren’t exactly supposed to love. I believe it breaks some kind of vow they have to take, but somehow he managed to love this girl. He loves her so much, that he pretty endangers the lives to go see her. It really is heartbreaking what he must do to her, even more so when something else is revealed about her status.

Bean. No, there is no Rowan Atkinson here. Sean Bean really impressed me in this role. His ability to deliver confidence and leadership on the screen makes for some good times. I wish he didn’t look like WWE wrestler HHH in some scenes, but what can you do, right?

What didn’t I like?

Horror. For some reason, they call this a horror, yet the directors decided to take out all that which would have made it a great horror film. I applaud them for not going the CG route but, at the same time, I think they could have put some kind of demon, witch, or other entity that is behind this all.

Gore. The gore isn’t really my problem, so much as it is that they don’t really use it effectively. Near the end of the film, someone gets ripped apart and then a couple of guys lay waste to the entire village, yet we see no blood from this, but a simple sword fight gives us more buckets of the red stuff than a Mortal Kombat fight!

Lost. Somewhere along the line, I got lost in the shuffle, and I’m sure that there are some viewers who felt the same way. The film begins with a the premise of scouring out the bubonic plague, then somehow twists into a film that tackled a theological discussion about God, death, and the plague.

Black Death ended up being much better than some of the films I watched earlier this week, but it didn’t quite blow me away. I guess I was expecting something more supernatural to happen, rather than this gritty, realistic film, and that skewered my view. Those that enjoy this kind of film will surely do so, and those that aren’t too keen on this type of stuff, won’t really be into it. I recommend it to those that fit in the former category. Not a bad film, but not something to go bragging to all of your friends about, either.

3 out of 5 stars


Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 22, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Determined to make her young, blonde, and beautiful daughter June a vaudeville headliner, willful, resourceful, domineering stage mother Rose Hovick will stop at nothing to achieve her goal. She drags the girl and her shy, awkward, and decidedly less-talented older sister Louise around the country in an effort to get them noticed, and with the assistance of agent Herbie Sommers, she manages to secure them bookings on the prestigious Orpheum Circuit.

Years pass, and the girls no longer are young enough to pull off the childlike personae their mother insists they continue to project. June rebels and elopes with Jerry, one of the dancers who backs the act. Devastated by what she considers an act of betrayal, Rose pours all her energies into making a success of Louise, despite the young woman’s obvious lack of singing and dancing skills. Not helping matters is the increasing popularity of sound films, which leads to a decline in the demand for stage entertainment. With bookings scarce, mother and daughter find themselves in Wichita, Kansas, where the owner of a third-rate burlesque house offers Louise a job.

When one of the strippers is arrested for shoplifting, Louise unwillingly becomes her replacement. At first her voice is shaky and her moves tentative at best, but as audiences respond to her she begins to gain confidence in herself. She blossoms as an entertainer billed as Gypsy Rose Lee, and eventually reaches a point where she tires of her mother’s constant interference in both her life and wildly successful career. Louise confronts Rose and demands she leave her alone. Finally aware she has spent her life enslaved by a desperate need to be noticed, an angry, bitter, and bewildered Rose stumbles onto the empty stage of the deserted theater and experiences a moment of truth that leads to an emotional breakdown followed by a reconciliation with Louise.


A friend of mine posted a status the other day about musicals and she said something about how Gypsy is one that I have never mentioned. Contrary to popular belief, I have not seen every musical. As a matter of fact, there are quite a few that I haven’t seen on film or in person, such as Les Miserables, and this is another one of them.

What is this about?

This old-fashioned musical (featuring a classic Stephen Sondheim-Jule Styne score) about stage-mother-from-hell Mama Rose Hovick (Rosalind Russell) and the two daughters she pushes into show business. Baby June is the talented one, but when she quits the business, Mama Rose turns her attention to gawky older sister Louise (Natalie Wood), who’s soon transformed into the notorious burlesque queen Gypsy Rose Lee.

What did I like?

Acting. This is my introduction to Rosalind Russell and, from what I hear, she is one of the underrated, yet immortal actresses of her time. This is a role that she really was able to sink her teeth into, and boy does she. There is some real emotion shown in her scenes highlighted by her final soliloquy/number that could have/should have been nominated for an Oscar, but she did receive a Golden Globe.

Music. The great Stephen Sondheim is responsible for the great songs you hear in this film. I’m not sure what songs were cut out/added if any, but I was really getting into these songs. As can be expected, there are a couple of standouts, “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” and “Let Me Entertain You”, and a few forgettable tunes, but the compilation of them all makes for a great mix.

Strippers. Have you ever noticed in films that strippers tend to be some of the most beautiful people in the world, save for one who tends to be the old mother-type figure? Well, the strippers here have a more realistic look to them. You can actually believe that they’ve had a hard life. Making things even better, they don’t have the best singing voices. I don’t whether that was done by design, but it was a nice touch. One of these days, I will make it to a club and see some real strippers so that I can have a basis for comparison.

What didn’t I like?

Rotten Wood. Like just about everyone else, I thought Natalie Wood was great in West Side Story as Maria. That role led to bigger and better things for her. Theoretically, this was supposed to have been one of those, but it just didn’t work out that way, as Wood delivers a very wooden performance. She does show a little bit of life when she comes into her own as a burlesque diva, but for me that was too little, too late. I did find it kind of funny that she looked in the mirror and said that she “looked beautiful”. I can’t be the only one who heard “I Feel Pretty” in their heads when she said that.

Jack Benny. Very early on, there is a scene where the act runs across a young comedian named Jack Benny. As we all know, Benny is one of the greats, but this scene, while meant to be funny, fell a bit flat, at least for me. Admittedly, I’m not that well versed in the life and times of Jack Benny, which may have contributed to that not working as well as it was intended.

Other sister. The first half of the film, Rose is hell-bent on making sure that her pretty, blonde daughter gets the spotlight and all the breaks, while the other sister is a cow’s ass…literally. Right before we hit the midway point, it is learned that she ran off to get married. For the rest of the film, she is never seen or heard from again. The only reference to her is the fact that she wants Wood to be her, even going so far as to put her in a blonde wig!

Gypsy is quite the enjoyable film. From my understanding, there are very few changes from the stage production, except for some stuff for time and screen, which is to be expected. Some of the Broadway cast even reprised their roles. I highly recommend this film. It is a great time that can be had by all, what with the mix of music, comedy, and drama. So, check it out and enjoy!

4 out of 5 stars

Black Knight

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

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Jamal Walker (Martin Lawrence) is an everyday slacker with a job at a crummy theme park called Medieval World, which is about to receive big competition from another theme park, Castle World. While cleaning a moat surrounding the park, he finds a medallion in the moat and when he tries to retrieve it he gets sucked into the past. He awakes in an alternate universe version of England, 1328, where he is first met by a drunkard named Knolte. He then searches for Medieval World, but he finds a castle that he thinks is Castle World, so he decides to check it out. The tenants of the castle believe him to be a French Moor, from Normandy, because he tells them he is from Florence and Normandie, a famous intersection in South Central Los Angeles.

Jamal is soon taken in by the reigning king, King Leo (Kevin Conway). He is assumed to be a messenger from Normandy who the king believes to be bringing news of an alliance between England and Normandy. Although at first Jamal thinks that all the people around him are just actors in a theme park he changes his mind when he witnesses a beheading. He gives his name as Jamal “Sky” Walker after his high school basketball nickname, and, after gaining trust from the king by accidentally preventing his assassination, Jamal is made a lord and head of security. While all of this is going on, Jamal finds out about the ruthless way the king came to power by overthrowing the former queen. He learns from Victoria (Marsha Thomason), a chambermaid, and Sir Knolte (Tom Wilkinson), a former knight of the queen who has become an alcoholic and whom he met when he first awoke there. Through their help and his own realization of the situation, Jamal soon understands he must help overthrow King Leo and help restore the queen to her throne. He manages to convince decimated rebels to gather their forces and overthrow the king.

After the Queen’s reign is restored, Jamal is knighted by her and during the dubbing he awakes back at Medieval World surrounded by his co-workers and a medical team who saved him from drowning in the moat. After being saved Jamal’s whole attitude changes and he helps his boss to make Medieval World better so that Castle World will not run them out of business. Later on, Jamal takes a walk around the new Medieval World and he meets a woman named Nicole (Marsha Thomason) who looks just like Victoria. They talk a little and he asks her out to lunch. Unfortunately, Jamal forgets to get Nicole’s number and when he tries to catch up to her, he accidentally falls back into the moat, and wakes up in Ancient Rome, where he is about to be devoured by lions.


The Renaissance Fair just left our area a few weeks ago and I’ve been getting some guff about not being able to take a certain person to the festivities. As a way to make up for it, I though Black Knight would be a way to appease both my taste for silly comedy and make up for the lack of Renaissance, but boy, was I mistaken!

What is this about?

With a bump to the head, Jamal Walker (Martin Lawrence) finds himself transported from his job at a medieval theme park to the real Middle Ages, where he teams with ex-knight Sir Knolt (Tom Wilkinson) and chambermaid Victoria (Marsha Thomason) to take out the evil King Leo (Kevin Conway). The hilarity begins as Jamal clashes with Leo and his henchman, who’ve stolen the throne from Queen Victoria (Helen Carey).

What did I like?

Story. If the plot sounds a tad bit familiar, that may be because it has been done quite a few times before, but it may best be known as A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Obviously, there are some changes that have been made, but the core story remains the same. The medieval parts of this picture seem to work better than the modern day sequences, which may also be why very little time was spend outside of 1328.

What didn’t I like?

Martin. Martin Lawrence is one of those guys that works in certain circumstances, like his show, but otherwise he comes off as annoying. This film shows how annoying he can really be, as he seems totally out of place in medieval times, as he is supposed to, but his actions and way of speaking are so exposed that it really makes you wonder if why people actually thought he was funny at one time. Personally, I couldn’t take his hamming it up to the camera from the start, where we see him brushing is teeth and whatnot. There is no need for that to a)have been the first thing we saw and b)have been such a production.

Race card. Something that I have noticed about Lawrence’s films is that he brings up race. While he is far from being another Spike Lee, it is an annoyance to keep hearing that he’s black at every turn. Also, there is an obvious racist tinge to the rivalry with Percival, made all the more clear when every time they cross paths, he utters the term Moor towards Lawrence, which was meant as a derogatory term, rather than an ethnic description. What makes it worse, is that he says nothing about Victoria. Perhaps that is because she is light-skinned or maybe it has something to do with her status, but at any rate, if this film wanted to go down the race alley, then if should have gone all the way or not at all.

Not so funny. This is supposedly a comedy, but I cannot say that I laughed one time throughout the entire flick. The jokes all fell flat and just did not work. The physical comedy wasn’t up to snuff, and the only thing that was halfway amusing happened to be a guy eating some type of animal feces.

Black Knight will go down as a black mark for films that I have reviewed this year. Not only is this film bad, it is so bad that I nearly turned it off and would have willingly watched Jersey Shore! I wouldn’t recommend this to my worst enemy. In case you haven’t guess, this is one of those films that you should avoid like the black plague! Trust me, you don’t want to waste your time on it, I already did it for you.

2 out of 5 stars

Red Sonja

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , on December 19, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Red Sonja is visited by a spirit who grants her the strength to seek her revenge against Queen Gedren. In a flashback scene, Gedren murders Red Sonja’s brother and parents after Sonja rejects the queen’s sexual advances, and Sonja is raped by Gedren’s troops.

Later, Gedren’s army and her aide-de-camp Ikol attack a temple full of white-robed priestesses, who are preparing to destroy a large, glowing green orb called the Talisman, used by the Creator to forge the world. This dangerous artifact’s destructive power is growing, and the priestesses intend to destroy it before it gets out of control and destroys the world. Only the priestess Varna manages to escape and she is mortally injured. Varna encounters Lord Kalidor and begs him to help her find her sister, Red Sonja. Kalidor finds Sonja and tells her that her sister is dying. Before dying, Varna tells Sonja what happened at the temple, and urges her to find the Talisman and destroy it. Sonja begins a journey to Berkubane, Gedren’s Kingdom of Eternal Night.

Sonja sees a storm in the distance, indicating that someone is using the Talisman. Kalidor offers to help her, but Sonja rejects his offer and rides to the now-ruined kingdom of Hablock. There she meets the young Prince Tarn and his servant, Falkon. They tell her that Gedren wiped out Hablock and its army with the Talisman because Tarn refused to surrender. Tarn announces that he is raising a new army to crush Gedren and invites Sonja to work for him as a cook. She declines and goes her own way.

Sonja kills Lord Brytag after he refuses her passage through the mountain passes. His troops surround Sonja, and Kalidor, who has secretly been following her, attacks their rear, allowing Sonja to escape. Sonja comes across Tarn and Falkon in the mountains. Tarn is being tortured by bandits. Falkon rejoins Sonja to help her kill the brigands and free the prince. They travel onward toward Berkubane.

At Castle Berkubane, Gedren and Ikol watch Sonja and her party approaching on a magic screen. Gedren recognizes Sonja and orders that she be brought back to the fortress unharmed. She and Ikol use the Talisman to conjure up a storm, forcing Sonja’s band to take shelter in a watery cavern. Gedren unleashes an “Icthyan Killing Machine” in the cavern. Kalidor reappears, and helps Sonja blind the beast.

Sonja now accepts Kalidor’s company, but also warns him that “no man can have her” unless he can defeat her in a swordfight. Kalidor challenges her and they fight to a draw. Kalidor, Sonja and Falkon then infiltrate Castle Berkubane. To protect Tarn, they convince him to stay behind in order to prevent Gedren from escaping. Sonja confronts Gedren, while Kalidor and Falkon deal with her guards in the castle’s dining hall. Ikol tries to escape with gold looted from Hablock, but is stopped by Prince Tarn, who accidentally kills him.

The Talisman, which Gedren has placed in a Chamber of Lights, is becoming too powerful to control. Its power breaks the floor open, revealing a chasm of molten lava beneath the castle. Sonja and Gedren fight in the Chamber, and Gedren falls into the chasm. Sonja throws the Talisman in after her, destroying it and starting a chain reaction that tears Castle Berkubane apart. The heroes manage to escape just before the castle is consumed by the rising volcano. Sonja and Kalidor kiss. Prince Tarn and Falkon look on before departing.


I really like these sword and sandal type flicks. I also have a thing for scantily clad redheads. With those two things in mind, it would seem that Red Sonja would be right up my alley, but that turned out to be quite the case as this ended up being vastly overrated.

What is this about?

After her family is brutally murdered, a young woman named Sonja (Brigitte Nielsen) sees “red” and becomes a master of the sword — all to seek revenge on the evil queen responsible for the tragedy that snuffed out her kin.

What did I like?

Action. Once you get past the useless diatribes and pointless plot, there are some decent sword fights and action scenes sprinkled in here, most notably one featuring Sonja and a metallic dragon she fights in the water. While I do wish there was more, what we do get is worth seeing.

What didn’t I like?

Acting. Good golly Miss Molly was the acting in this film bad. Far from being the worst I’ve seen, it was still pretty horrible. I can forgive Schwarzenegger because he was still learning the language, but everyone else…geez! It is a miracle Brigitte Nielsen managed to get some kind of career after this film, she may very well have been the worst offender, and she’s the title character!

Forgettable. There is nothing that I can remember about this film and it just ended a few minutes ago. I can’t imagine that anyone will be remembering anything about it a week, month, or year after watching it. Usually there is at least something to wrap your mind around, but not the case with this, which is such a shame.

Prince Tarn. There are annoying kids and then there are those that are just downright unbearable. Prince Tarn is one of the latter. Part of it is his character, but that can only go so far. How can any one child, who was obviously meant to be comic relief, bring the film down so quickly?

Red Sonja was supposed to be a nice little action flick for me to check out during my typical Wednesday night film session, but it turned out to be something that nearly bored me to tears. I had such high hopes for this, but they were quickly dashed. I do not recommend this to anyone, unless you’re trying to torture someone. It isn’t the worst thing one can see, but it is pretty bad.

2 out of 5 stars

White Christmas

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , on December 18, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

On Christmas Eve, 1944, somewhere in Europe, two World War II U.S. Army buddies, one a Broadway entertainer, Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby), the other a would-be entertainer, Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) give a show to the troops of the 151st Division in a forward area. But the mood is somber: word has come down that their beloved commanding officer, Major General Thomas F. Waverly (Dean Jagger), is being relieved of command. He arrives for the end of the show and delivers an emotional farewell. The men give him a rousing send-off (“The Old Man”). An enemy artillery barrage ensues, and Davis saves Wallace’s life by carrying him out of the way of a toppling wall, wounding his own arm slightly in the process. Using his “wounded” arm and telling Bob he doesn’t expect any “special obligation”, Phil convinces Bob to join forces as an entertainment duo when the war is over. Phil using his wound to get Bob to do what he wants becomes a running gag throughout the movie.

After the war, the pair make it big in nightclubs, radio and then on Broadway. Becoming successful producers, they eventually mount their newest hit musical entitled Playing Around. Phil is increasingly concerned that his pal Bob has not met a woman with whom he can settle down and several clumsy attempts to set him up with showgirls fail.

In mid-December, after two years on Broadway, the show is in Miami, and while performing at the Florida Theatre, they receive a letter from “Freckle-Faced Haynes, the dog-faced boy”, a mess sergeant with whom they’d been acquanted back in the war, asking them to audition his two sisters. When they go to the club to audition the act (“Sisters”), Phil notices that Bob is smitten with Betty (Rosemary Clooney), while Phil has eyes for her sister, Judy (Vera-Ellen).

Following their number, the girls join Bob and Phil at their table, and believing he may have found the right girl for Bob, Phil brings Judy on to the dance floor so that Bob and Betty can get to know each other better. Phil and Judy hit it off (“The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing”), and Judy tells Phil that she and her sister are headed for the Columbia Inn in Pine Tree, Vermont, where they are booked to perform over the holidays. Back at the table, Betty reveals to Bob that Judy herself, not her brother, sent them the letter. The two get into a brittle argument, and the prospects for a romance seem doubtful.

When the girls’ corrupt landlord claims the sisters burned a $200 rug and is trying to have them arrested, Phil hears the news and helps them escape out the window, giving the girls their own sleeping-room accommodations aboard the train to Vermont.

To give the girls time to make it to the train, Phil convinces Bob to don the girls’ forgotten costumes and lip-sync “Sisters” from a record, after which the boys arrive on the same train two hours later. The girls are all over Bob in appreciation for giving up their sleeping accommodations and Phil uses “his arm” once again to convince Bob to travel with the girls to Vermont for the holidays (“Snow”).

When everybody arrives to put on the show at the Pine Tree Ski Lodge, there’s not a flake in sight, and the weather is so unseasonably warm, chances of it falling appear dim. The boys discover that the inn is run by their former commanding officer, Gen. Waverly, who has invested all his savings and pension into the lodge, and it’s in danger of failing because of the lack of snow and consequent lack of patrons.

Deciding to help out and bring business up to the inn, Wallace and Davis bring the entire cast and crew of their new musical Playing Around, and add in Betty and Judy where they can. At the same time, Bob and Betty’s relationship starts to bloom (“Count Your Blessings”) and they begin to spend a good deal of time together. Meanwhile, Bob discovers the General’s rejected attempt at rejoining the army, and decides to prove to the General that he isn’t forgotten.

Bob calls Ed Harrison (Johnny Grant), an old army buddy, now the host of a successful variety show (intentionally similar to that of variety show pioneer Ed Sullivan). Bob tells Ed that he wants to make a televised pitch to all the men formerly under the command of the General, asking them to come to the inn on Christmas Eve as a surprise.

In response, Harrison suggests they go all out and put the show on national television, playing up the whole “schmaltz” angle of the situation and generating lots of free advertising for Wallace and Davis in the process. What Bob doesn’t know is that nosy housekeeper Emma Allen (Mary Wickes) has been listening in to the phone conversation on the extension but has only heard about the whole schmaltz suggestion, hanging up before Bob rejects the idea.

Mistakenly believing that her beloved boss will be presented as a pitiable figure on a primetime coast to coast broadcast, Emma reveals what she heard to a shocked Betty who is originally loath to believe Bob would pull such a stunt for his own gain, but mistakenly comes to believe he would indeed stoop to such depths.

The misunderstanding causes a now-disillusioned Betty to grow suddenly frigid to an equally-baffled Bob. Unaware of the real reason for her sudden change of behavior, Judy becomes convinced that Betty, ever-protective of her little sister, will never take on a serious relationship until Judy is engaged or married. She pressures an extremely reluctant Phil to announce a phony engagement, but the plan backfires when Betty abruptly departs for New York City, having received a job offer.

Distraught, Phil and Judy reveal to Bob that the engagement announcement was phony, and Bob, still unaware of the real reason behind Betty’s annoyance, heads to New York to explain. Bob goes to see Betty’s new act (“Love, You Didn’t Do Right By Me”) and reveals the truth about the engagement, but is called away by Ed Harrison before he can find out what is really bothering her. Meanwhile, back at the Inn, Phil fakes an injury to distract Gen. Waverly so he won’t see the broadcast or Bob’s announcement.

On the broadcast, Bob proceeds to ask the veterans of the 151st Division to come to Pine Tree, Vermont, on Christmas Eve (“What Can You Do With A General”). When Betty is backstage in the greenroom between performances, she catches Bob’s pitch on a television set and realizes she was mistaken. All is set right, and she returns to Pine Tree just in time for the show on Christmas Eve. Emma convinces Gen. Waverly that all his suits were sent to the cleaners, and suggests he wear his old uniform to the opening of the show. Initially reluctant, he agrees. When the General enters the lodge where the show is to take place, he is greeted by his former division, who sing a rousing chorus of “The Old Man”. Just as the following number (“Gee, I Wish I Was Back In The Army”) ends, he is notified that snow is finally falling.

In the finale, Bob and Betty declare their love for one another, as do Phil and Judy. The background of the set is removed to show the snow falling, everyone raises a glass, and toasts, “May your days be merry and bright; and may all your Christmases be white.”


Christmas is just days away and I have been promising myself that I would eventually get to watch White Christmas. Living most of my life in the south, I haven’t been privy to the novelty of having snow on Christmas, or in general, really. When it does snow, it doesn’t stick around that long, but things do shut down because of it (which turns out to be a free vacation day and I won’t complain).

What is this about?

Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye play war buddies turned entertainers who fall for two sisters. The boys follow the girls to a resort owned by their former commanding officer, and he’s in danger of losing the place.

What did I like?

Brilliant. The film itself is nothing compared to the brilliant musical numbers we get to see. The use of vibrant, bright colors was quite the norm back then, but they really pop out in a film where the majority of the scenes are in a dull hotel, and even more so when the snow shows up at the end. Even if you don’t check this film out, go to YouTube and look up the musical numbers. They truly are breathtaking, if I do say so myself.

Talent. Last week, a friend and I were discussing some of the great crooners that also had decent acting careers. Sinatra obviously came up, but so did Bing Crosby. Lo and behold, I am watching a film where he gets to flex his acting and singing chops, alongside the likes of Rosemary Clooney, nonetheless. Throw in the comic stylings of Danny Kaye and the fleet feet of Vera-Ellen and there is no way this could go wrong, even with that lack of Crosby solo songs.

Music. Along with the title song, Irving Berlin was responsible for the entire collection of songs included in this picture. There aren’t really any songs that are instantly recognizable, with the exception of “Sisters” and the snippet of “Blue Skies”, but these songs are from lacking in the way of entertaining, as can be heard in “Snow”, a song that feature our 4 leads.

What didn’t I like?

Holiday. This film is advertised as big holiday film, but with the exception of the bookended titular tune, there is nothing to really remind you that this is indeed a Christmas movie. I’m the last person to advocate Christmas music, as I’ve become weary and bitter towards the stuff over years of hearing and recycling the same tunes year after year, but I feel as if this film could have done with a jolly jaunt somewhere down the line. A little “Jingle Bells” or “Up on the Housetop” wouldn’t have hurt.

Sidekick. Danny Kaye, who was obviously younger and more inexperienced that Crosby seemed to be plying more of his sidekick that partner, as opposed to Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney where seemed to be equals, even if you can make the case that Clooney was the more dominant of the ladies. I’m sure Kaye took a backseat to Crosby out of respect for all he’s done. The man is a legend, after all, but I feel as if he could have still had more of an impact on the film, rather than just be some guy who could have easily been an extra with some lines, as opposed to being a leading man.

There really isn’t much to not like about White Christmas. It is one of those fun, family musicals that you can gather the whole family around and begin a holiday tradition while watching. For me, I liked it and highly recommend it, but I’m not sure I loved it. I will be watching it when it comes on AMC sometime in the next 3 days to get a more concrete decision on it, so be aware that I may change my mind oe way or another.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars