Archive for January, 2013

Hotel Transylvania

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 30, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Dracula (Adam Sandler) is the owner and creator of Hotel Transylvania, a five-star resort where the world’s monsters can be safe from human civilization. Dracula invites some of the most famous monsters like Frankenstein (Kevin James) and his wife Eunice (Fran Drescher), Murray the Mummy (Cee Lo Green), Wayne and Wanda Werewolf (Steve Buscemi and Molly Shannon), Griffin the Invisible Man (David Spade), Bigfoot, Steve the Blob, and other monsters to celebrate the 118th birthday of his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez). However, Mavis prefers to explore the outside world with her father’s permission, but the village he directs her to is actually an elaborate deception to convince her of the threat of humans enough to coax her back.

However, this charade inadvertently attracts the attention of an ordinary young traveler named Jonathan (Andy Samberg) who was exploring the surrounding forest and followed the staff to the hotel. Once Jonathan enters the hotel, Dracula frantically attempts to hide him from the patrons such as disguising him as a Flesh Golem named Johnny-stein with the later hasty cover story of being a relative of one of Frank’s body parts. Eventually, Jonathan is discovered by Mavis and company, forcing Dracula to claim he is going to arrange Mavis’ birthday party with a young perspective. In doing so, Jonathan manages to charm everyone at the hotel, especially Mavis. Eventually, even Dracula begins to like the human taking him into his confidence about his family’s traumatic past after the vampire notices the young man knows something about them in a respectful manner.

Unfortunately, Chef Quasimodo Wilson (Jon Lovitz) realizes Jonathan is human and captures him to cook him, forcing Dracula to directly intervene by magically freezing the chef. Eventually, the birthday party happens and it is a raucous success until Dracula freaks out when Mavis and Jonathan have an innocent kiss. A ranting Dracula accidentally lets it slip that he tricked Mavis at the fake village and Mavis is outraged at being manipulated by her own father. Things get worse when a still-frozen Chef Quasimodo interrupts the party as the Fly (Chris Parnell) translates his frozen language to the clientele which states that Jonathan is actually a human. Even as the clientele are revolted, Mavis still accepts and expresses her desire to be with Jonathan even though he is human. For his part, Jonathan feels obliged to reject Mavis for her father’s sake and leaves the hotel. Afterward, Dracula realizes that in his efforts to protect Mavis, he has broken her heart and now she tearfully wants to stay at the hotel forever.

Wishing to undo his mistake, Dracula persuades his friends to help him find Jonathan and even risks his destruction by venturing out in the daylight to do so. Learning that Jonathan is about to board a flight out of Transylvania Airport shortly, they race on and enter a town en route. At that town, Dracula and company are stunned to see the humans having a ‘Monster Festival’. To clear a path, Frankenstein tries to scare them, but finds the humans are cheerfully welcoming them instead and even provide a shaded route through the town for Dracula to proceed at maximum speed.

However, Dracula finds that he is too late with Jonathan’s plane taking off. With no alternative, Dracula desperately flies after it in broad daylight despite being hurt by the sun. With much effort, Dracula manages to reach the plane and resorts to mind-controlling one of the pilots (Brian Stack) to apologize and tell Jonathan that he wants him to return to be with his daughter. Jonathan accepts Dracula’s apology and Dracula manipulates the plane back to the airport.

Later, Dracula returns Jonathan to Mavis, who tells her that she’s his ‘zing’ and the reason why he had to reject her. Dracula gives his blessing to their relationship, Jonathan and Mavis kiss and the hotel has another party to celebrate his daughter’s liberating coming of age before Jonathan and Mavis set off on their travels.

The film ends with Dracula and his friends being shown in traditional animation (in the style of Genndy Tartakovsky’s cartoons) during the credits

REVIEW:

Given the bad rap monsters, especially vampires, werewolves and, to a lesser extent, zombies seem to be getting these days, it is nice to know that someone out there knows and respects their legacies enough to given them a film that isn’t insulting to everything we know about them. Sure, Hotel Transylvania may be a kids film, but there are no sparkling vampires who somehow manage to survive in the daylight here, nor are there any werewolves who do nothing but stalk unattractive emo chicks.

What is this about?

Hotel Transylvania owner Dracula (Adam Sandler) pulls double duty as an overprotective dad when an unwelcome suitor (Andy Samberg) shows interest in his teenage daughter (Selena Gomez). All the while, he’s hosting world-famous monster guests like Frankenstein, his bride and a werewolf family.

What did I like?

The gang’s all here. Pick a monster, any monster, and you’re sure to see them in the film, whether it be in a cameo or major role. I think the only ones missing were the more mythological creatures like minotaurs, centaurs, harpies, and the like, but there is a cyclops and a hydra to make up or fill the void.

Father knows best. For years, Adam Sandler has been trying to do a sensitive dad role and also use that voice he does in all of his films. Finally, all that practice has paid off! Sandler is such an animated person that it takes him being animated to get a truly great performance from him. Ironically, with the exception of that 9/11 dram he did, this is the most subdued character he’s played. That’s a good thing, as I think an insane acting man-child version of Dracula wouldn’t have gone over as well with the audience or with a “teenage” daughter. The relationship with his daughter is the heart of this film. If that didn’t work, then this flick wouldn’t have any legs to stand on.

Animation. Back when Cartoon Network was actually worth watching cartoon on, they had shows like Samurai Jack, Dexter’s Laboratory, and The Powerpuff Girls. All of these were done by the director of this film, Genndy Tartakovsky. I never really noticed it until the final credits were rolling, but the characters do have the design of one of his cartoons. Man, I miss his style of animation. Not to mention cartoons that were actually fun to watch, not just odd.

Dracula. As I mentioned before, Adam Sandler surprisingly gives a really good performance, but what is more impressive is the character design. Most iterations of Dracula are that of a tall, slender man with an imposing presence, not to mention his ability to bend the will the regular human and turn into a bat. The whole moving tables around and freezing people is new, but I like it.

What didn’t I like?

Kids. The kids annoyed the hell out of me. Mavis is fine, she’s just a teenage girl trapped in a castle wanting to get out and see the world. It happens. However, the wolf kids are representative of how unruly and disrespectful children are today. Johnny annoyed me in every way imaginable. First of all, he’s voiced by that no talent hack Andy Samberg, who is nothing more than an Adam Sandler wannabe and is a big reason Saturday Night Live hasn’t been funny for the past few years. This character though just seems to think his way is right, which it isn’t. The way he just walks in to the hotel just wasn’t a good introduction to him and he never recovered in my eyes.

Humans. Aside from John, we have the humans at the monster festival. Now, there is nothing specifically wrong with these people. It is basically just a comic con for people who like monsters. However, the fact that they have little to no reaction to Dracula and his pals is a little disconcerting. On the one hand, they are at a convention where everyone is dressed as monsters, so there is that little bit of disbelief expected. However, on the other hand, these are the real deal! Have we become that disenfranchised and dead to these guys that they are akin to stuffed animals? It sure seems like it. Such a shame, really.

Hotel Transylvania is one of the films that I really wanted to see when it came out, but because of scheduling, I never got around to it. I really do wish I had gotten to see this in theaters. I may have even paid the 3D price. This, along with ParaNorman and from the looks of it Frankenweenie (which I will be getting to soon) could make for some good Halloween movies for kids. Something that we haven’t really had in quite some time. I highly recommend this as it is truly an enjoyable film for everyone. Be on the lookout for the jab at Twilight late in flick. On a final note, does anyone know where it is that we all starting assuming Dracula said, “bleh, bleh”?

5 out of 5 stars

The Train Robbers

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Movie Reviews, Westerns with tags , , , , , on January 30, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

The action never stops in this western, which has a surprise ending. Ann-Margret stars as Mrs. Lowe, a widow who wishes to recover some gold stolen by her husband and hidden away. She says she wants to return it to the bank it was stolen from and clear her family name. In order to do this, she persuades Lane (John Wayne) to ride into Mexico with her and recover the loot. Once they cross the border, they discover two very different pursuers: a large group of bandidos, and a lone horseman who seems to know their every move (Ricardo Montalban).

REVIEW:

This morning, I was watching the John Wayne episode of I Love Lucy and, lo and behold, Netflix sends one of the Duke’s films, The Train Robbers. I’ll be honest, this the first I had heard of it, but it starred Ann-Margret and was a western, so it was worth at least a shot.

What is this about?

The Train Robbers is a 1973 Western film starring John Wayne, Ann-Margret, and Rod Taylor. Mrs. Lowe (Ann-Margret) wants back the half million U.S. dollars in gold her late husband stole during the assault on a train. Lane (John Wayne), attracted by the reward offered of $ 50,000, decides to help. For this work he will involve the collaboration of some friends old friends. However, he won’t be alone. The comrades of the deceased husband of Mrs. Lowe will try to get gold at any cost, followed closely by a Pinkerton agent.

What did I like?

Ann-Margret. I’ve seen better performances from her, but you can’t help but wonder at this woman’s beauty. Early on, Wayne tells her to give him her shirt so he can boil it to make it tight so that “…sticking out from the right places” [sic]. If you’ve ever watched a western, then you know that women are few and far between. Come to think of it, with the exception of Bandidas, most westerns seem to have women portraying housewives, courtesans, or eye-candy, and Ann-Margret seems to be here, but she is also a part of the plot, similar to Racquel Welch in 100 Rifles.

Romance. It would seem that a film like this is bound and determined to put our leads together in some sort of relationship. Whoever it is that wrote this film, though, knew better. The two have no romantic chemistry, but you can feel there could be something there is need be. Kudos to some great writing to pull that off.

Twist. The ending of the film is not quite what you expect. I won’t spill the beans on what happens, but I will say it is a bit of a twist that some may not see coming but, at the same time, you sort of assume based on some events throughout the flick. I’m not really a fan on twist endings, but every now and then, they are a nice change of pace.

What didn’t I like?

Trains. Don’t be fooled by the title, you won’t be seeing any train robbery here. I wish I could say that  wasn’t the case, but it seems that the filmmakers forgot what this was entitled, or when this was finished some bigwig decided that this would be something that would bring in more viewers, as if John Wayne and Ann-Margret alone couldn’t do so.

Music. The composer of the film’s score, whose name escapes me at the moment, attempts to give us the illusion that is an epic cinematic masterpiece. There are subtle quotes from the them to How the West Was Won, which I liked, but question why it is that he felt he had to rip off that orchestral masterpiece, rather than coming up with his own.

Slow. With a run time of just over 90 minutes, there are about 15 minutes of excitement. The rest is just talking, meandering, arguing, and accusations. This is the biggest problem with the film for me. I would have much rather there have been something to capture our attention here and there, be it a kidnapping, an actual train robbery, or something along those lines. We are not so lucky, however, as this film drags on for what is seemingly forever before taking off in the final minutes. Too little, too late? Perhaps.

This is turning out be a bit of a challenge coming up with a rating for The Train Robbers. It isn’t a bad film, but it has too many issues to garner a rating of greatness. I’m sorry, but that is the way it. Having said that, the last few minutes of this film, coupled with some great Ann-Margret and John Wayne scenes makes it worth a Saturday afternoon viewing. Maybe you should check it out!

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

 

Revisited: The Seven Year Itch

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , on January 30, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Richard Sherman (Tom Ewell) is a nerdy, faithful, middle-aged publishing executive with an overactive imagination and a mid-life crisis, whose wife Helen (Evelyn Keyes) and son Ricky (Butch Bernard) are summering in Maine. When he returns home with the kayak paddle Ricky accidentally left behind, he meets a woman (Marilyn Monroe), a commercial actress and former model who rents the apartment upstairs while in town to make television spots for a brand of toothpaste. That evening, he works on proofing a book in which psychiatrist Dr. Brubaker (Oskar Homolka) claims that a significant proportion of men have extra-marital affairs in the seventh year of marriage. He has an imaginary conversation with Helen, trying to convince her, in three fantasy sequences, that he is irresistible to women, including his secretary, a nurse and her bridesmaid, but she laughs it off. A tomato plant then crashes into his lounge chair; the woman upstairs apologizes for accidentally knocking it over, and Richard invites her down for a drink.

He waits for her to get dressed, including in underwear she says she keeps cool in her icebox. When she arrives, a vision in pink, they have a drink and he lies about being married. When she sees his wedding ring, he backtracks but she is unconcerned, having no designs on him, only on his air-conditioning. He has a fantasy that she is a femme fatale overcome by his playing of Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto. In reality, she prefers Chopsticks, which they play together. Richard, overcome by his fantasies, awkwardly grabs at her, causing them to fall off the piano bench. He apologizes for his indiscretion but she says it happens to her all the time. Guilt-ridden, however, he asks her to leave.

Over the next few days, they spend more time together and Richard imagines that they are growing closer, although she is immune to his imagined charms. Helen continually calls her husband, asking him to send the paddle so Ricky can use the kayak, but Richard is repeatedly distracted. His waning resolve to resist temptation fuels his fear that he is succumbing to the “Seven Year Itch”. He seeks help from Dr. Brubaker, but to no avail. His imagination then runs even wilder: the young woman tells a plumber (Victor Moore) how Richard is “just like The Creature from the Black Lagoon”; the plumber repeats her story to neighbor McKenzie, whom Helen had asked to drop by to pick up Ricky’s paddle. Richard imagines his wife with McKenzie on a hayride which actually takes place but into which he injects his paranoia, guilt and jealousy. After seeing The Creature from the Black Lagoon, the young woman stands over the subway grate to experience the breeze – Monroe in the iconic scene in the pleated white halter dress.

Eventually coming to his senses, and fearing his wife’s retribution, which he imagines in a fantasy scene, Richard, paddle in hand, tells the young woman she can stay in his apartment; then he runs off to catch the next train to Maine to be with Helen and Ricky.

REVIEW:

I may prefer Jayne Mansfield as my curvy blonde from the Golden Age of Hollywood, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy Marilyn Monroe just as much as the next guy. As a matter of fact, The Seven Year Itch is one of my favorites of her films and, in my opinion, she never looks more attractive than she does in this film.

What is this about?

After packing off his wife and son for the summer, doughy middle-aged publisher Richard Sherman (Tom Ewell) lets his imagination run wild, fantasizing about erstwhile ladyloves and his blonde, curvaceous new neighbor (Marilyn Monroe). Inviting her over for a drink, Richard plans to sweep her off her feet and into the bedroom, until he imagines that his flights of fancy are airing nationwide — with his wife in the audience.

What did I like?

Itch. Anyone who has been in a relationship for a length of time probably knows what it is like to get the itch. That isn’t to say that you’re going to go around cheating on your significant other, but if something happens by your way that is a looker (especially if it looks like Marilyn), I’m sure you’re going to do a double-take. Let’s face it, no man is going to turn down chance with her, and the film doesn’t try to hide that fact. Nearly every man who comes across her does a double take, and with good reason.

Imagination. Ewell’s imagination leads to quite some interesting and comedic visions. Sure, he may be a bit paranoid, but given the circumstances, that’s understandable. Some may argue that his visions are over the top, but given the tone of the film and such, they work just fine. If anything, I felt as if there could have been more.

Support. The majority of the film is focused on Monroe and Ewell, but when we do get  glimpse at the supporting characters, they make their presence known, especially the carpet guy, not exactly sure what he really does, Mr. Kruhilik. Small part, but one of those that you will remember. Today he would be considered a bit tame, but for the 60s, he would be considered a bit of a perv based on his actions, mannerisms, and sayings.

What didn’t I like?

Overrated. I think we’ve all see that iconic image of Marilyn standing over the grate with air blowing her dress up, right? Well, that is actually from this film, though all it shows is her (rather skinny) legs, so it is quite possible that it could have been anyone the way they cut away from her face so quickly. I wonder how it is that became such an iconic pose that is still engrained in our psyches today.

Heat wave. Monroe’s character is supposedly burning up from the New York summer (she should come down to this part of the country!!!), and yet she looks just as comfortable as she does when she goes down to visit Ewell in his air-conditioned apartment. I’m not saying she needed to be dripping with sweat and whatnot, but they could have made her a bit more disheveled, if you ask me.

Differences. Apparently, in the stage play, our two leads have sex, as opposed to just playing out scenarios in their heads. This, among other things, was changed for the big screen. I don’t want to get into a debate about which version is superior, nor am I going to bring up how they should have left well enough alone. However, by taking that little scenes of infidelity out, they totally changed the entire story. Given the time when this was released, it isn’t like we were going to see them in the act, but there were better ways to avoid it than changing the entire ending.

The Seven Year Itch is a classic romantic comedy that will put a smile on your face. It isn’t exactly laugh out loud funny, but it has some humourous moments and a very gorgeous leading lady in Marilyn Monroe. Any fan of classic cinema needs to check this out ASAP, it is a definitive must-see, even with its flaws.

4 out of 5 stars

Revisited: The Goonies

Posted in Movie Reviews, Revisited with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 27, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The Goonies, a group of friends living in the “Goon Docks” neighborhood of Astoria, Oregon, face foreclosure on their families’ homes from the expanding Astoria Country Club. On one of their last days their morale sinks particularly low due to Mikey’s older brother having failed his driver’s license exam, thwarting their plans to “cruise the coast in style” during their “last Goonies weekend.” While rummaging through the Walshes’ attic, they find an old newspaper clipping, a Spanish map, and an artifact relating to a rumor of a lost but not forgotten pirate treasure somewhere in the area. Hearing the call of adventure, Mikey tries to persuade his friends to join him in search for the treasure hoarded by a pirate named One-Eyed Willie. Initially reluctant, the group eventually decides to evade the authority of Mikey’s older brother, Brandon, and escape for one last “Goonie adventure.”

They then head down the coast and stumble upon a derelict seaside restaurant that seems to match coordinates set by the map and an old doubloon, unaware that the Fratellis, a family of fugitives, are using the restaurant as their hideout. After first encountering the family, the Goonies come back after the Fratellis have left and discover their criminal intents, and send Chunk, the group’s clumsy, heavy-set dreamer and teller of tall tales, to get help. However, the Fratellis return before they can leave, forcing the Goonies to use a cavern underneath the restaurant to escape. The Fratellis capture Chunk and interrogate him, learning nothing until a pack of bats burst out of the cavern beneath the restaurant. Chunk is placed in the same room with the forsaken and deformed Fratelli brother, Sloth, while the rest of the Fratellis enter the cavern and follow the Goonies’ trail.

As the Goonies traverse the cavern, Mikey discovers that it matches up with the map and convinces the rest of the group to continue to follow it to find the treasure. They overcome many deadly traps set by One-Eyed Willie, and eventually arrive at a large underground cavern and a lagoon where Willie’s ship, the Inferno, lies waiting. While others begin to fill their pockets with the riches on the ship, Mikey finds Willie’s skeleton, and reverently acknowledges him as the “first Goonie”, leaving part of the treasure with him as tribute. However, as the Goonies exit the hold, they are caught by the Fratellis, who take their treasure and force the kids to walk the plank. The Goonies are saved by the timely arrival of Chunk and Sloth, now close friends, who help the rest of the group to shore. With the children no longer a threat, the Fratellis ransack the rest of the ship, including the share of the treasure Mikey left for Willie. This sets off a final booby trap, causing the cave to begin collapsing. The Goonies flee through a hole in the cave, finding themselves on a beach. Two passing policemen spot them and call in for help.

The Goonies are soon reunited with their parents while the Fratellis are arrested and Chunk offers to take Sloth into his home. As the Astoria Country Club calls upon Mikey’s father to sign over the deed to his property, Rosalita, the Walshes’ maid, discovers that Mikey’s marble bag contains a large handful of jewels taken from the ship. Mikey’s father quickly estimates that its value is more than enough to save everyone’s homes. As the families celebrate, they spot the unmanned Inferno, now free of the cave, sailing away.

REVIEW:

The other day I was thinking about movies that define each generation. For those of us that were around in the 80s, The Goonies was one such film, but I really can’t think of any such film for today’s generation. Isn’t that a shame?

What is this about?

A ruthless crime family calling themselves the “Fratellis” have somehow escaped from jail and are now hiding in a town of Astoria, Oregon. Home of a secret kid society known as “The Goonies”, their leader is Michael “Mikey” Walsh, and they are enjoying their last weekend together as a system of contractors have bought their neighborhood and are considering on transforming it into a golf course. However Mikey, stumbles upon a mysterious map to a treasure of a famed pirate “One-Eyed” Willie. So, The Goonies embark on an adventure to find the treasure and save their neighborhood. However, they also came across the Fratellis. So, The Goonies have to stay one step head of the Fratellis and find the treasure while avoiding a system of traps

What did I like?

Vintage. This is a film that has aged like a fine wine. Here it is 2013, and it is still as fresh as it was in 1985, with the exception of some era differences (clothes, music, technology, etc.), of course. Making it even better, they reach back and pay homage to the swashbuckling era with clips of Errol Flynn’s Captain Blood, which is also featured in the film score.

Camaraderie. There is nothing like a group of close-knit friends hanging out and going on an adventure together, especially if it is to search for treasure that may or may not exist so that they can keep their homes from being destroyed and being forced to move. As someone who moved around as a kid thanks to a dad in the Air Force, I never really had the chance to have a group of friends like that, so whenever I see things like this, it really strikes a chord, especially when it is believable.

Story. From start to finish, the story grabs the viewer and takes us on a quite enjoyable ride. There aren’t too many films around that effectively mix comedy and action with a feel good tone, but this is one of those flicks that does so. All the usual elements are here, but it is the great characters that were created which really pushes this film ahead to, dare I say, greatness.

What didn’t I like?

Mikey. Something about this kid rubs me the wrong way everytime I watch. Perhaps it is the fact he gets the majority of the screen time, when much more interesting characters like Data and Mouth are more or less supporting and/or background “noise”. I felt they could have found a better balance amongst all the Goonies, honestly.

Fratellis. Sloth aside, it seems as if the Fratellis were nothing more than bumbling antagonists. Given the general tone of the film, this isn’t an issue, except for the fact that they seem competent enough to figure out how to not fall into the traps on the way to the treasure and also, they appear to have a cruel sadistic streak.

Plasma. This is a small thing, but why in the bloody blue hell was there a plasma globe, which was on, up in the attic with all these dusty artifacts and whatnot?!? I was joking with someone how that may have just been an inside joke by the prop people, which it very well may have been, but if it wasn’t, there is no way it makes any kind of sense for that to be there!

The Goonies is a great flick that should be a requirement for everyone to see.  There is very little, if anything to complain about with this flick. The reputation it has garnered over time is well-earned. Rather than beat around the bush and pad this final paragraph, I’m just gonna say that this is a must-see before you die film!

4 3/4 out of 5 stars

Damn Yankees

Posted in Classics, Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , on January 26, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Joe Boyd is a middle-aged fan of the unsuccessful Washington Senators baseball team. His obsession with baseball is driving a wedge between him and wife Meg—a problem shared by many other wives of Senators supporters. Meg leads them in lamenting their husbands’ fixation with the sport (“Six Months Out of Every Year”).

After seeing his team lose yet again, Joe rashly declares that he would sell his soul to the devil to see his team beat the Yankees. No sooner has he spoken than the devil appears before him in the guise of a suave conman, Applegate. Applegate claims he can go one better—he can restore Joe’s youth, making him the player who wins them the pennant. This was more than Joe bargained for. He agrees, but persuades Applegate to give him an escape clause. Applegate declares that Joe can back out at any time before the last game of the season—afterwards, his soul belongs to the devil.

Joe bids an emotional farewell to a sleeping Meg (“Goodbye Old Girl”), after which Applegate transforms him into a dashing young man, now called Joe Hardy.

The next day, the Senators’ practice is a fiasco. Their manager, Ben Van Buren (Russ Brown), gives the team a rousing pep talk (“Heart”). Applegate arrives and, introducing himself as a scout, presents his new discovery—Joe Hardy from Hannibal, Missouri. Joe promptly hits baseball after baseball out of the park in an impromptu batting practice. As he is signed to a Senators contract, female sportswriter Gloria Thorpe plans to quickly get Joe into the public eye (“Shoeless Joe from Hannibal, Mo.”).

With tremendous home runs and game-saving catches, Joe leads the Senators on a long winning streak into pennant contention and becomes a national hero. Joe misses Meg dreadfully, however, and keeps sneaking back to his old neighborhood for a glimpse of her. Realising this could ruin his plans, Applegate summons his demonic right-hand girl, Lola, a seductress who was once known as the ugliest woman in her territory, but sold her soul to Applegate in exchange for eternal youth and beauty. She is ordered to make Joe forget his wife. Lola is confident that she can carry out this task (“A Little Brains, A Little Talent”).

Joe succeeds in getting close to Meg by renting a room in his old house; Meg is unaware of his baseball stardom. Applegate and Lola manage to corner Joe in the baseball team’s locker room, where Lola confidently tries to seduce Joe (“Whatever Lola Wants”). But she has her first failure—Joe dearly loves Meg, and does not fall for Lola’s tempting ways. Applegate angrily banishes Lola.

By the end of the season, the Senators are on the verge of overtaking the Yankees, so their fans hold a lavish tribute (“Who’s Got the Pain?”). Gloria, having returned from Hannibal, Missouri, where no residents remember a Joe Hardy, confronts Applegate about the player’s true identity. Applegate implies that Joe is actually Shifty McCoy, a corrupt minor leaguer playing under a pseudonym. By the end of the tribute, newspapers arrive accusing Joe of being Shifty. He must meet with the baseball commissioner for a hearing or else be thrown out of baseball—on the day he plans to switch back to being Joe Boyd.

At the hearing, Meg and her female neighbors arrive as material witnesses, attesting to Joe’s honesty and falsely claiming he grew up with them in Hannibal. The commissioner acquits Joe, but as everyone celebrates, midnight strikes. Joe realizes he’s doomed.

Applegate has planned for the Senators to lose the pennant on the last day of the season, resulting in thousands of heart attacks, nervous breakdowns and suicides of Yankee-haters across the country. He’s reminded of his other evil misdeeds throughout history (“Those Were the Good Old Days”.)

Following the hearing, Lola lets Joe know she’s drugged Applegate so that he will sleep through the last game. They commiserate over their condemned situation at a nightclub (“Two Lost Souls”).

Late the next afternoon, Applegate awakens to find the Senators/Yankees game well underway. Realizing Lola has tricked him—and worse, that Lola has actually fallen in love with Joe—he turns her back into an ugly hag.

They arrive at the ballpark by the ninth inning, the Senators up by a run. With two outs, one of the Yankee sluggers (Mickey Mantle) hits a long drive to the outfield. Applegate impulsively switches Joe Hardy back into Joe Boyd in full view of the stadium. Now paunchy and middle-aged, Joe makes a final lunge at the ball and catches it. Washington wins the pennant! As his teammates celebrate and fans storm the field, an unrecognized Joe escapes from the ballpark.

Late that night, as the public wonders why Joe Hardy has disappeared, Joe Boyd meekly returns to his house. Meg quickly hugs him with her tears and they sing to each other (“There’s Something about an Empty Chair”). Applegate materializes once again and tries to make amends by offering Joe the chance to resume being Joe Hardy in time for the World Series. Joe ignores him, and a tantrum-throwing Applegate vanishes for good

REVIEW:

So, next week is the Super Bowl, basketball season is in full swing, and here I am watching a musical about baseball. Odd, huh? Well, that is sort of the same way I would describe Damn Yankees, but at least it has no love for the evil empire.

What is this about?

America’s favorite pastime meets the bright lights of Broadway in this musical about an ordinary Joe (Tab Hunter) whose deal with the devil (Ray Walston) transforms him into a home run hitter for the Washington Senators — but Joe must cause his team to lose the pennant. When Joe tries to back out of the deal, the devil sends in sexy Lola (Gwen Verdon), who sings “Whatever Lola Wants” as she mambos to Bob Fosse’s choreography.

What did I like?

Faust. Although they never actually call him Satan, the Devil, Faust, or whatever you want to call him, it is obvious that the guy pulling all the strings, masterfully brought to life by Ray Walston with charm, humor, and charisma. Without him, this film has no legs.

Love story. There is nothing like a good love story, especially when it involves a lost love. The wife that was left behind while Joe was off being a young baseball player, really wears her heart on her sleeve. When the film starts, she seems like a doting, but slightly bitter, wife who loves her husband, but wishes he would pay more attention to her and not the game. The film gives off the vibe that she would be glad he’s gone, but when it makes its way back to her, we can tell she is miserable without him. It is almost heartbreaking.

What didn’t I like?

Music. Yes, the music is something that didn’t really impress me. For a musical, this is pretty pathetic, especially since it is one that is held in such high regard by so many people. These songs just weren’t that great, I’m sorry to say, and before the film was over, I had forgotten them all, including “Whatever Lola Wants”.

Lola. Speaking of Lola, it seems that she should be a really attractive sexpot of a woman, not this creature they trot out from dance school. I can get past the singing, because they can just as easily have dubbed over her voice, but seriously, why couldn’t they get someone easier on the eyes like the character requires. How anyone would fall for this is beyond me. Don’t even get me started on how her rendition on “Whatever Lola Wants” is far from the superior version that can be seen/heard in The Pajama Game.

Changes. All the changes from stage to screen did not do this film justice. I happened to catch a production of this in last year, and it was almost like night and day difference. The plot is still there, but the stage production works so much better. It really gets under my skin when studios change so much of the source material just because it supposedly “works better”.

Damn Yankees is a forgettable film musical that felt like someone stayed up all night writing it at the last minute. There is no reason to see this version. Either track down a stage production of it or, better yet, just rock out to the band Damn Yankees. You’ll have much more fun than sitting through this.

2 1/2 out of 5 stars

The Last Days of Disco

Posted in Drama, Independent, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on January 26, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film loosely depicts the “last days” of the disco era in the early 1980s, when weirdness, sex, and drugs ran rampant. The story centers on Alice Kinnon (Chloë Sevigny) and Charlotte Pingress (Kate Beckinsale), two young Manhattan women fresh out of Hampshire College who work in a New York publishing house. The two women, companions but not necessarily close friends, frequent the local disco together in search of music, dance, and romance. They are starkly different in personality: Alice is intelligent, quiet, and rather soft-spoken, while Charlotte is outgoing, conceited, and brutally honest, giving Alice constant “advice”. The women subsequently decide to move in together and find a third roommate, Holly (Tara Subkoff), because neither of them makes quite enough money or receives enough help from her parents to cover the expense. They begin a friendship with one of the club’s managers, Des (Chris Eigeman), and find one-night stands and relationships through the ensuing year, until it appears that the disco era has ended. At the end of the film, Alice and Charlotte part ways after a conflict, and Charlotte and Des discuss how their “big” personalities are “too big” for most people with “healthy-size” personalities, such as Alice. The film closes with a spirited musical dance sequence on the subway with Alice, Josh (her now-boyfriend), and the other passengers and pedestrians to The O’Jays’ song “Love Train”.

REVIEW:

Who doesn’t have the urge to get up and dance everytime some disco come on? With music that catchy, doesn’t it lead one to wonder why it is that it just seemed to die? I’ve always been curious what The Last Days of Disco were like.

What is this about?

The Last Days of Disco loosely depicts the “last days” at a disco palace, where drugs, sex and weirdness ran rampant. The story centers around a group of friends who frequent the disco and each other. All the characters are searching for something to make their lives more fulfilling. Some are searching for everlasting love and some are just wanting something different. As the disco is closed, they all wonder can disco ever really be dead?

What did I like?

Music. A film that centers around the final days of disco, as the title says, better damn be sure to have some great tunes. At times, it seems as if they overdo it a bit, as it seems like they are playing a disco station from Pandora all through the film, but with great music like this, you can’t really fault them for wanting to put it out there front and center.

Yuppies. This is a film that isn’t necessarily the most interesting, but the snappy dialogue among these young people really seems to keep things moving. The fact that these characters are all rather annoying yuppies, despite their objection to that term, makes them annoying or intersting…some may even say both.

What didn’t I like?

Youth. Kate Beckinsale is one of the hottest women around but in her younger days she is far from the actress she is today. I do think she made the right decision by doing more action flicks these days, even if they are crappy remakes like that Total Recall bs. Here, though, she is just a bitchy, loudmouth, overbearing, know-it-all that is highly unlikable. It is a wonder that anyone feels anything for her during her medical emergency near the end of the film.

Dance. Given the tone of the film, I’m not going to fault the flick for the dance scene at the end, but they could better job with it. It seems as if they couldn’t think how to end the film, at least on a high note, so they just stuck a dance in there. I also felt that they wanted to prove that although disco had been “killed”, many still felt that it had some life left in it.

Bro drama. I don’t really know what the whole deal with the guys was. There seemed to be every cliché guy move thrown in there, save for them being rival athletes. I can’t say that I was a fan of this. There were times when I got lost in it all….or maybe I just lost interest, it was hard to tell.

The Last Days of Disco did not really impress. Truth be told, if not for the music, this would really be a boring flick, at least in my eyes. My opinion aside, though, this could really be up someone’s alley and you can never truly know until you watch it for yourself. To me, this was an average flick, but I still say check it out sometime, if you think about it.

3 out of 5 stars

The Big Doll House

Posted in Action/Adventure, Classics, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

Collier (Brown) enters prison, having been found guilty of killing her husband. She is introduced to the pulchritudinous companions of her cell, in for crimes ranging from political insurgency to heroin addiction. The women trade tiffs, which leads to their torture by sadistic guard Lucian (Kathryn Loder). The torture ceremonies are viewed by an impassive cloaked figure.

Collier’s cellmates Alcott and Bodine (Collins and Woodell) plan to escape. Collier and another cellmate Ferina (Gina Stuart) agree to go along. Assisting is their other lesbian cellmate Grear (Pam Grier), though there are doubts Grear’s heroin addict girlfriend Harrad (Brooke Mills) will be equipped to escape.

Ferina, Alcott and Bodine break from the solitary confinement sauna and take their revenge on Lucian. The escapers wield guns, attitude, and a vacillating feminist/submissive sexuality to free themselves.

During their escape they round up various personnel from the prison as hostages, taking elegant prison warden Miss Dietrich (Christiane Schmidtmer), sympathetic prison medic Dr Phillips (Jack Davis), and two local men regularly allowed access to the prison to sell market produce, Harry (Sid Haig) and Fred (Jerry Franks).

REVIEW:

Who doesn’t want to see a good prison flick? Well, if that’s what you’re in the mood for, then The Big Doll House is the perfect flick for you. Well, maybe I should retract the “good” part of that statement, as I’m not sure this would qualify.

What is this about?

In this campy addition to the women in-prison genre, the systematic brutality and corruption of a grim Philippine prison leads a resourceful inmate and her fellow convicts to plan a big breakout with help from a pair of unwitting accomplices.

What did I like?

Girls with guns. Let’s not try to make this some kind of high brow flick, because that isn’t what it is. This is a 70s flick that focuses on two things, scantily clad women in prison and guns. In other words, this is more of a flick for guys. As a guy, I’m perfectly ok with that.

Torture. The torture scenes were something to behold, as you actually feel the pain that these women were enduring as the sadistic guard was having the pleasure of torturing them, while the hooded man watched on in silence. It gives a new definition to the term sadistic voyeur.

Men. There are 3 men in this film. One is the prison doctor who seems to know that something is a bit off and appears to truly care for the prisoners well-being. The other two deliver produce (and other things) to the prison and provide comic relief. None of these guys give top-notch performances, by any stretch of the imagination, but they don’t drag the film down, which is a plus.

What didn’t I like?

Submissive dominant. I’m all for a submissive woman as much as the next guy, but one of the chicks that was playing the submissive role had me scratching my head. When we first see her, she’s one of those women that mouths off to authority. For goodness sakes, she killed her husband for a reason I forgot. Does this sound like a woman who is going to submit to anyone? Of course, it is Pam Grier she is submitting to.

Authority. During the torture scenes, Lucian takes her hair down. For what reason, I don’t know, but she does it. Seems to be that she would be putting it up to perform torture, but what do I know. The warden is a truly beautiful woman, probably the best looking I’ve ever seen. Dar I say it, but she may have been too beautiful for this position. Think about it, a woman with model looks in a prison full of women who are sure to be jealous of her since they can’t make themselves all girlied up any time soon.

Make-up. Speaking of being all girlied up, it seems as if all the prisoners are wearing make-up. How is this possible in prison and when they’re all sweaty? Something isn’t quite right here, especially when it look as if all the guards, with the exception of the sadistic head guard, are not wearing any. I know this flick isn’t exactly trying to be the most realistic, but come on!

The Big Doll House is probably the best of these women in prison flicks. The plot actually makes sense, as opposed to Women in Cages and The Big Bird Cage. Having said that, it still is just an excuse to show scantily clad, and sometimes nude, women in prison, wrestling in mud, etc. I recommend this to those that have a flair for 70s flicks, but that’s about it. Even Pam Grier fans will be disappointed, especially since she comes to an abrupt end. To say I was disappointed is an understatement, but there is still some joy to be had from watching this. You have to make your own call, though.

3 out of 5 stars